click here to jump to start of article
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​




Devarim(Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22)

Feeling Small

Tradition records that the Ninth of Av, the day both Temples were destroyed, has a biblical antecedent of infamy. On this date, it was decreed that the generation that left Egypt, the "generation of the desert", would not enter the Land of Israel:

On the Ninth of Av it was decreed that our fathers should not enter the [Promised] Land. (Talmud Bavli Ta'anit 29a)

The background was the report of the spies, a frightening report that spread through the camp and brought the people to tears:

And it is further written, "And the entire congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night." Rabbah said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: That night was the night of the Ninth of Av. The Holy One, blessed be He, said to them: "You have wept without cause, therefore I will set [this day] aside for a weeping throughout the generations to come." (Talmud Bavli Ta'anit 29a)

In the words of Rabbi Yochanan, God responded to the unjustified tears shed that night by the Children of Israel as would a parent who sees his child crying for no reason: "I will give you something to cry about." With that, their fate was sealed for generations to come.

And yet, Rabbi Yochanan's comments are not as clear as they may seem at first glance: Why were future generations impacted by this particular sin? How are the unjustified tears shed in the desert that night connected with the hurban, the destruction? The generation of the desert did not want to enter a land they were convinced would never be theirs. In what way is this sin related to the destruction of the Temple? Surely, this is a sad, even tragic event, but it seems to have little to do with the generation of the Second Temple. Why should the impact of this particular sin still reverberate generations later? The Ramban asks this question, and quotes the Book of Psalms as his answer:1

They made a calf in Horev, and worshipped the molten image. Thus they changed their glory for the likeness of an ox that eats grass! They forgot God who had saved them, who had done great things in Egypt; Wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome things by the Red Sea. Therefore he said that he would destroy them, had not Moshe, his chosen one, stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them. And they despised the pleasant land, they did not believe his word; And they murmured in their tents, and did not listen to the voice of God. And he lifted up his hand against them, to make them fall in the wilderness. And to make their seed fall among the nations, and to scatter them in the lands. (Tehilim 106:21-27)

The Psalmist understood, before the Temple was ever built, that the sin of the spies would impact the Jewish People in the future, and would result in the exile of a future generation. Rabbi Yochanan's opinion, as recorded in the Talmud, may well have been based on this Psalm. The question that remains unsolved for us is - why? What is it about this sin, above and beyond all the other sins committed by the generation of the desert, that continued to influence the Jewish People hundreds of years later?

Elsewhere, the Talmud teaches that the First Temple was destroyed because of three major sins: a breakdown of sexual mores, murder, and idolatry. This same tradition teaches that the Second Temple was destroyed due to groundless hatred:

Why was the First Temple destroyed? Because of three [evil] things which prevailed there: idolatry, and immorality, and bloodshed... But why was the Second Temple destroyed, seeing that in its time they were occupying themselves with Torah, [observance of mitzvot, and the practice of charity]? Because therein prevailed hatred without cause. That teaches you that groundless hatred is considered as of equal gravity to three sins, idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed, together. (Talmud Bavli Yoma 9b)

This Talmudic axiom may, in fact, be reconciled with the Beit Halevi's teaching that the destruction of the First Temple is related to the sin of the Golden Calf, and the Second Temple to the sin of the spies.2 At face value, the sin of the Golden Calf was an act of idolatry in its most easily-identifiable form. However, the creation and worship of the Golden Calf at the foot of Sinai involved both murder3 and orgiastic celebration.4 The Talmudic tradition that these three sins led to the First Temple's destruction, is closely mirrored by the behavior of the nation in the Golden Calf incident.

The second half of the Beit Halevi's formulation seems less straightforward: Whereas the Talmud identifies the cause of the second destruction as "baseless hatred," the Beit Halevi points to the sin of the spies. Perhaps the comments of the Maharal5 and the Chafetz Chaim,6 who see the sin of slander at the core of the incident of the spies, can bridge the gap7: Slander is a particularly effective method of perpetuating groundless hatred. Slander and groundless hatred, the sin of the spies and the sin of the generation of the Second Temple, are two sides of the same coin.

Despite this explanation, the connection between the Talmudic reference to groundless hatred and the Beit Halevi's reference to the sin of the spies seems somewhat amorphous, for there does not seem to be any hint of groundless hatred in the story of the spies. This brings us back to our earlier question: From the biblical account of the incident of the spies, we cannot understand why future generations were so forcefully impacted by this particular sin, committed by a particular generation in very particular circumstances. Let us re-examine the verses describing the incident of the spies.

When the twelve scouts returned from their mission, they began their description of the Land of Israel with glowing terms:

And they returned from surveying the Land after forty days. And they went and came to Moshe, and to Aharon, and to all the congregation of the People of Israel, to the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word to them, and to the entire congregation, and showed them the fruit of the Land. And they told him, and said, "We came to the land where you sent us, and surely it flows with milk and honey; and this is its fruit." (Bamidbar 13:25- 27)

Only then did they add their own negative military analysis:

Nevertheless the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are walled, and very great; and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the land of the Negev; and the Hittites, and the Yevusites, and the Amorites, live in the mountains; and the Canaanites live by the sea, and by the side of the Jordan. (Bamidbar 13:28-29)

Calev rejects their negative prognosis; he states that the Land is attainable.

And Calev quieted the people before Moshe, and said, "Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it." (Bamidbar 13:30)

Only after Calev challenges their perspective do the other members of the reconnaissance team change tactics and resort to disparaging, slanderous comments about the Land itself:

But the men who went up with him said, "We are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we." And they slandered the land which they had surveyed to the People of Israel, saying, "The land through which we have traveled to survey, is a land that eats up its inhabitants; and all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature. And there we saw the Nefilim, the sons of Anak, who come from the Nefilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so were we in their sight." (Bamidbar 13:31- 33)

It is this evil report which reduces the people to tears. The very next verse describes the fear and crying:

And the entire congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the People of Israel murmured against Moshe and against Aharon; and the whole congregation said to them, "Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! And why has God brought us to this Land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be prey? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?" And they said one to another, "Let us choose a chief, and let us return to Egypt." (Bamidbar 14:1-4)

What is still lacking is any reference to hatred that would connect the Beit Halevi's opinion to the Talmudic understanding of the causes of the destruction. The connection is supplied later, in the book of Devarim, when Moshe retells the story. He adds one critical element not recorded in the first account - Moshe reveals what the people said and how they expressed their feelings on the night the spies returned:

You grumbled in your tents and said, "Because of God's hatred of us, He took us out of the land of Egypt to put us in the hand of the Emorites to destroy us." (Devarim 1:27)

Here we find "hatred" in the story of the spies. It is a hatred which the people attribute to God. While they may feel it, this does not necessarily make it real: In this case, "hatred" is in the eye of the beholder, as it were, a product of their collective imagination, existing only in the minds of the Israelites. They think that God hates them. Rashi picks up on this problem and offers an insightful explanation:

You grumbled: You spoke slanderous words... Because of God's hatred of us: In reality, He loved you, but you hated Him. A popular proverb says, "What is in your heart regarding your friend, [you imagine] is in his heart regarding yourself." (Rashi on Devarim 1:27)

The phenomenon Rashi describes is known in modern psychological parlance as projection: we ascribe to another the same feelings we have toward him. The Jews' own fear and insecurity cause them to believe that the Land of Israel is unattainable; if this is so, God took them out of Egypt to die in the desert. Ergo, God must hate them. Of course, the opposite is the case: Because of His love for the Children of Israel, God took them from Egypt and would lead them to the Promised Land. In other words, the Jews hated God for no reason; this is what we call sinat chinam - groundless hatred.8

Once we realize that the reaction of the people to the report of the spies was a case of projection, we are able to trace their distorted emotional and psychological state back to its source - the specific words used by the spies: While trying to dissuade the Jews from maintaining their course to the Land of Israel, the spies make a remarkable statement. It is this particular statement that immediately precedes the complaining and crying. It is this particular statement that contains dibah, the slander which the commentaries point to as the core of the sin. It is this statement which serves as the source of the Jews' emotional projection:

And they slandered the land which they had surveyed to the People of Israel, saying, 'The land through which we have gone to spy, is a land that eats up its inhabitants; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the Nefilim, the sons of Anak, who come from the Nefilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so were we in their sight. (Bamidbar 13:31-33)

They tell the assembled crowd that they saw giants - a discouraging but understandable piece of information which may or may not be a factual report of their findings. They then go on to express their own feelings: "We were in our own sight as grasshoppers," a sad indication of their own insecurity. But the final statement - "and so were we in their sight" - is nothing short of preposterous. While they may have a right to their own feelings of inadequacy, they have absolutely no right to project those feelings on their enemies. The spies, leaders of the Tribes of Israel, felt like grasshoppers, and they assumed that they were seen this way by others. By what right do they presume to know how the inhabitants of the land saw them? Here, then, in the very same verse that records their slander, we find projection on the part of the spies: "and so were we in their sight"!

Ironically, when other nations do speak about the Jews, their descriptions and perceptions are vastly different to that of the spies. For example, Moav speaks to the elders of Midian in very worried tones regarding the approaching Israelite camp. Balak, King of Moav, is intimidated by both the size and the strength of the Children of Israel, and likens them to oxen rather than puny grasshoppers.

And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. And Moav was terribly afraid of the People, because they were many; and Moav was overcome with dread because of the Children of Israel. And Moav said unto the elders of Midian: "Now will this multitude lick up all that is round about us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field." And Balak the son of Zippor was King of Moav at that time. And he sent messengers unto Balaam the son of Beor, to Petor, which is by the River, to the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying: "Behold, there is a People come out from Egypt; behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me." (Bamidbar 22:2-5)

Groundless hatred of God, manifested in slander, was caused by projection. These elements are found in another notable passage associated with Tisha B'Av, an episode that has become synonymous with sinat chinam - the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza. It is a tale of loathing, jealousy, insecurity and groundless hatred:

The destruction of Jerusalem came through Kamtza and Bar Kamtza ... in this way. A certain man had a friend, Kamtza, and an enemy, Bar Kamtza. He once made a party and said to his servant, "Go and bring Kamtza." The man went and brought Bar Kamtza. When the man [who gave the party] found him there he said, "See, you tell tales about me; what are you doing here? Get out." Said the other: "Since I am here, let me stay, and I will pay you for whatever I eat and drink." [The host] said, "I won't." "Then let me give you half the cost of the party." "No," said the host. "Then let me pay for the whole party." [The host] still said, "No," and he took him by the hand and put him out. Said the other [i.e. Bar Kamtza], "Since the Rabbis were sitting there and did not stop him, this shows that they agreed with him. I will go and inform against them to the Government." He went and said to the Emperor, "The Jews are rebelling against you." [The Emperor] said, "How can I tell?" He said to him: "Send them an offering and see whether they will offer it [on the altar]." So [the Emperor] sent with [Bar Kamtza] a fine calf. While on the way he made a blemish on its upper lip, or as some say on the white of its eye, in a place where we [Jews] count it a blemish but they [non-Jews] do not. The Rabbis were inclined to offer it in order not to offend the Government. Said R. Zechariah b. Avkulas to them: "People will say that blemished animals are offered on the altar!" They then proposed to kill Bar Kamtza so that he should not go and inform against them, but R. Zechariah b. Avkulas said to them, "Is one who makes a blemish on consecrated animals to be put to death?" R. Yochanan remarked: Through the scrupulousness (or modesty) of R. Zechariah b. Avkulas our House has been destroyed, our Temple burnt and we ourselves exiled from our land.

The Talmud provides a concluding note:

It has been taught: Note from this incident how serious a thing it is to put a man to shame, for God espoused the cause of Bar Kamtza and destroyed His own House and burnt His Temple.

If it were not for the tragic consequences, this would sound like a comedy of errors: A confused invitation arrives at the home of a sworn enemy instead of the home of a beloved friend. This private situation deteriorates to the point that it becomes the trigger for destruction and exile for the entire nation. Surely this was not an isolated instance of hatred; there must certainly have been many others who did not get along. This story illuminates the general atmosphere of that society; the Maharsha describes this episode as an example used by the scholars of the Talmud to illustrate the type of hatred that caused the destruction of the Second Temple.9

In his comments, the Maharsha adds another dimension to this episode that sharpens the story immeasurably: Kamtza and Bar Kamtza were very likely father and son - the word bar means "son of," hence, Kamtza and the son of Kamtza.10 The anonymous host has a best friend named Kamtza, but he detests his friend's son. The son is accidentally invited to the party; although he is aware, as is everyone else, that the host despises him, the son arrives at the party, apparently hoping for a rapprochement. He must have assumed that the personal invitation extended to him by the host's servant was a reconciliatory gesture, which he eagerly accepted. Perhaps he imagined that his own father had interceded. When he found himself facing supreme humiliation, did he look to his own father, in vain, to salvage his honor? We are never told that he learned the cause of his mistaken invitation; perhaps he began to suspect that the host's hatred for him is shared by his own father! From here, it is a short distance indeed back to the desert, to the Jews crying in their tents because they believe that God hated them, when in reality he loved them.

The conclusion of this episode offered by the Talmud is not what we would expect: Rather than placing the blame with the truly guilty party - the nameless, implacable host who humiliated the hapless Bar Kamtza and had him bodily thrown out of his home; rather than admonishing the humiliated Bar Kamtza for betraying his People in his desire for revenge, the Talmud concludes that it was the "anvetanut" of Rabbi Zechariah ben Avkulas that destroyed the Temple.

The description of Rabbi Zechariah's character is translated variously as modesty, patience,11 or scrupulousness. In any case, we are somewhat nonplussed by this peculiar, seemingly anti-climactic conclusion. Rabbi Zechariah was presented with two choices, neither of which were true to the letter of the law: he could either rule to bring the blemished offering, which would have been an affront to ritual law, or to kill the man who created the crisis that threatened the entire Jewish community. We might be tempted to say that Rabbi Zechariah was guilty only of taking a myopic view, adhering to the letter of the law while ignoring the larger issues involved in the case. Rabbi Yochanan's summary of the entire Bar Kamtza affair places things in inescapable perspective for us: "Due to the 'modesty' of Rav Zechariah ben Avkulas our House has been destroyed, our Temple burnt and we ourselves exiled from our land."

We began our inquiry with a statement by this same Rabbi Yochanan, drawing a line from the sin of the spies to the destruction of the Second Temple on the Ninth of Av. The same Rabbi Yochanan who points an accusing finger at Rabbi Zechariah also12 taught that Jerusalem was destroyed because the jurists of that generation judged strictly by the letter of the law:

For Rabbi Yochanan said: Jerusalem was destroyed only because they gave judgments therein in accordance with Biblical law. But say thus: because they based their judgments [strictly] upon Biblical law, and did not go beyond the letter of the law. (Talmud Bavli Bava Metzia 30b)

The Chatam Sofer reconciles these seemingly divergent ideas: The masses were guilty of groundless hatred, while the rabbinic leadership was guilty of literalism, of judging according to the letter of the law: Bar Kamtza was guilty of groundless hatred, while Rabbi Zechariah was guilty of judging according to the letter of the law, a type of halachic stringency which led to spiritual paralysis.13

The Chatam Sofer points out that Rabbi Zechariah's behavior in the case of the Emperor's offering was not an isolated incident; the same sort of reasoning, the same modus operandi, is evident in the only other instance in which Rabbi Zechariah is mentioned in the Talmud.14 The other case involved a seemingly mundane point of Shabbat law; the question concerned the proper way to dispose of bones at the Shabbat table.15

Beit Hillel16 said, lift the bones and shells from the table; Beit Shammai said, remove the entire tray (or tabletop) and shake off the refuse. Zechariah ben Avkulas did not follow the opinion of Beit Shammai or that of Beit Hillel, rather he spat the bones out behind the couch. Rabbi Yosa taught, "The 'modesty' of Rav Zechariah ben Avkulas burnt the Temple." (Tosefta Shabbat 16:7)

In the context of this halachic debate, the concluding statement is completely baffling; whereas this same statement was somewhat of a surprise ending to the Kamtza/Bar Kamtza episode, in this halachic passage, it seems completely out of context. And yet, there is a disturbing common denominator between the two cases: Apparently Rav Zechariah, though quite learned, was afraid to state his opinion. He felt inadequate, and was unwilling to take sides in the halachic debate. He seems, in both stories, incapable of making a decisive ruling of his own.

Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Chiyus explains:

Because of the great "modesty" of Rabbi Zechariah ben Avkulas, he did not presume himself to be spiritually entitled or emboldened enough to rule in practical matters of law.17 He was afraid that people would suspect him controverting the halacha, and did not see himself as prominent enough to hand down rulings based on his own opinion (even) in these extenuating circumstances (of Bar Kamtza and the Emporer's offering). He thought only the really great Rabbis of the generation could make such decisions.... Therefore the word "modesty" is used, because he did not trust his own opinion. And that was the reason that the Temple was destroyed. (Maharatz Chiyus, Commentary to Gittin 56a)18

Rabbi Zechariah did not trust himself; even worse, he was afraid of what people would say. Therefore, he could not or would not choose between the divergent opinions of Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel. Likewise, his handling of the Bar Kamtza fiasco was indecisive: He felt small, inadequate. And this was the very crux of the matter: In telling the story of Bar Kamtza, the Talmud makes it very clear that what bothered Bar Kamtza more than anything else - more than his humiliation, more than his own father's passivity or possible complicity - was the inaction of the Rabbis. In another case of emotional projection, Bar Kamtza began to hate the entire Jewish People, and not just the individual who had disgraced him, because he thought the Rabbis hated him:

Bar Kamtza said: "Since the Rabbis were sitting there and did not stop him, this shows that they agree with him."

Another version of the Bar Kamtza story, found in Midrash Eicha, reveals one more critical detail:

It happened that a Jerusalemite once gave a dinner and instructed one of his household, "Go and bring me my friend Kamtza"; but he went and invited Bar Kamtza who was his enemy. The latter entered and sat among the invited guests. When the host came in and found him among the guests, he said to him, "You are my enemy, and yet you sit in my house! Get up and leave my house!" He answered, "Do not put me to shame, and I will pay you the cost of what I eat." He said to him, "You will not recline at the meal!" He said to him, "Do not put me to shame, and I will sit without eating or drinking anything"; but he replied, "You will not recline at the meal!" He pleaded, "I will pay the cost of the whole meal"; but the host said, "Go away!" Rav Zechariah ben Avkulas, who was present, could have prevented [the host from treating the man in this manner] but did not intervene. Bar Kamtza at once left the house, and said to himself, "They feast and sit in luxury; I will go and inform against them." ... Hence the popular saying: "Because of the difference between [the names] Kamtza and Bar Kamtza was the Temple destroyed." Rav Yose said: The "modesty" of Zechariah b. Avkulas burnt the Temple. (Midrash Rabbah Eicha 4:3)

Rabbi Zechariah was there, at the party, among the invited guests who witnessed Bar Kamtza's disgrace! In keeping with what we already know about his character, Rav Zechariah didn't feel it was his place to get involved. He did not reprimand his host for treating a fellow Jew so poorly; he did not leave the party in protest. He made no statement, did not declare that he could not participate in the festive meal after witnessing the host's reprehensible behavior. He made no attempt to mediate between the two sides, nor did he attempt to clarify the misunderstanding or to console the humiliated Bar Kamtza. Once again, Rav Zechariah felt it was not his place to make a value judgment. His misplaced "modesty" caused Bar Kamtza to project his own feelings back onto those who had stood idly by as he was shamed, and resulted in Bar Kamtza's sinat chinam toward the Rabbis in general. Later, this same meekness prevented Rav Zechariah from dealing decisively with the explosive situation which he helped create. He felt too small. He, too, projected his own feelings upon others, worrying that they would think him too small and unimpressive to make a ruling.

Bar Kamtza was devastated by Rabbi Zechariah's inaction. Ironically, the victim-turned-Quisling, Bar Kamtza, saw Zechariah as a great rabbi, a representative of the entire rabbinic establishment - indeed, of the entire nation - in stark contrast to Rabbi Zechariah's too- modest self-image.

The destructive projection of a negative self-image has its antecedents in the sin of the spies: They felt inadequate, they felt as small and insignificant as grasshoppers. This parallel cannot have been foreign to the Talmudic sages who recorded the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza and identified it as the axis for the hurban: As the Maharal points out, the Aramaic word for "grasshopper," the word used in the spies' self-description, is kamtza.19

The lesson of the Talmudic account of Rabbi Zechariah's inaction in the face of moral and halachic crisis is just this: There is a straight line between the feelings of inadequacy of the spies and the people's sinat hinam towards God in the wake of the spies' discouraging report. That straight line continues directly through Rabbi Zechariah's feelings of inadequacy, and results in the sinat hinam felt by Bar Kamtza that resulted in the destruction of the Second Temple.20

The Jewish People should never have felt small - not in the desert, and not during the Second Temple period. They should have known that God was, and would always be, with them. If we ever feel that God hates us - God forbid - we must remind ourselves that in fact He loves us very much. The spies, who were leaders of the tribes, forgot this. The generation that heard the report of the spies forgot this, and they didn't make it to Israel. The generation of the Second Temple projected their fear and insecurity on others; even their Rabbis felt insecure, afraid of what people would say. Consequently, they were driven into exile.

Especially today, especially in a generation facing the enormous tasks and tremendous challenges that we do, the vocal and unyielding enemies, and the self-doubt and insecurity they may cause - we must be constantly aware of our true stature: We are not small - not individually, and not as a nation. We are not grasshoppers; we should never see ourselves as grasshoppers, nor should we behave like grasshoppers. We must always remember; we must constantly remind ourselves: We are God's Chosen People. He is with us always. His love for the Jewish People is eternal.

 

NOTES

1. Ramban Bamidbar 14:1.

2. Beit Halevi Shmot 12:43.

3. See Rashi Shmot 32:5, and footnote 4, below.

4. See Rashi Shmot 32:6.

5. Maharal Chidushai Aggadot page244 (Sanhedrin).

6. Chafetz Chaim laws of Loshon Hara.

7. Based on Talmud |Bavli Arichin 15a,b: It was taught: R. Eleazar b. Perata said, Come and see how great the power of an evil tongue is! Whence do we know [its power]? From the spies: for if it happens thus to those who bring up an evil report against wood and stones, how much more will it happen to him who brings up an evil report against his neighbour! But whence [follows] that? Perhaps it is as explained by R. Hanina b. Papa; for R. Hanina b. Papa said: A stark thing did the spies say in that hour, as it is written: For they are stronger than we'. Do not read: 'than we' but 'than He': as it were, even the Master of the house cannot remove his utensils from here! Rather, said Rabbah in the name of Resh Lakish: Scripture said, Even those men that did bring up an evil report against the land, died by the plague against the Lord, i.e., [they died just] because of the evil report which they had brought up. The School of R. Ishmael taught: Whoever speaks slander increases his sins even up to [the degree of] the three [cardinal] sins: idolatry, incest, and the shedding of blood.

8. The Kli Yakar Dvarim 1:1, connects this comment of Rashi with what we call sinat chinam.

9. Maharsha commentary to Talmud Bavli Gittin 55b.

10. Ibid.

11. Rashi explains that it means patience.

12. The Talmud Yoma 9a, reports this in the name of Rabbi Yochanan while the Tosefta Menachot teaches this in the name of Rabbi Yochanon ben Torta. The Chatam Sofer assumes that the Amora Rabbi Yochanan did teach this opinion in Yoma.

13. Chatam Sofer commentary Talmud Bavli Gitten 55b.

14. Ibid. 56a.

15. This passage appears as follows in the Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 143a: Rav Sheshet threw them away [spat them out] with his tongue. Rav Papa threw them behind the couch. It was said of Rav Zechariah ben Avkulas that he would turn his face to the back of the couch and spit them out. Talmud Bavli Shabbat 143a. The parallel version preserved in the Tosefta is brought here for reasons of clarity.

16. There are traditions that reverse the opinions of Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai.

17. The Shem Mishmuel Vayeshev 5674 uses the same language to describe the cause of the enmity between Yosef and the brothers, a fight which serves as the prototype of sinat chinam.

18. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Iggrot Moshe Yoreh Deah, vol. I, responsa 101, cites this passage, and argues that in our generation as well, rabbis must not display "excessive" modesty. The Torah has not become fossilized, and capable rabbis are obligated to hand down learned opinions.

19. Targum Unkolus Bamidbar 13:33: "And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come of the Nephilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight."

20. Maharal Netzach Yisrael chapter 5.

Published: July 20, 2009

Give Tzedakah! Help Aish.com create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.

Visitor Comments: 2

(2) Yehudith Shraga, July 25, 2012 6:46 PM

Wonderful explanation, enormous depth of understanding

Thank you very much for the explanation which gives such a deep understanding of the interconnection of the events, the part concering the false modesty is most revealing, because we often consider to speak or not, to act or not, and your article gives very important tips on the matter, thank you again.

(1) Doreen, August 6, 2011 4:56 PM

Very insightful!

Could I dare postulate Rav Zechariah's inaction mirrors that of Eli the Priest? Eli seemed to be afraid of his sons and did nothing when they took the Ark into battle - thus causing its capture by the Philistines. I believe that was another disastrous event in the life of the Jews.

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.


  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment
stub
Sign up today!