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Avodah Zarah, Daf Dalet, Part 6
Reading for Friday
, July 14
Avodah Zarah 4-6

 

 

יום מעיד טרף בעגל סימן: גופא אמר רבי יהושע בן לוי מאי דכתיב (דברים ז, יא) “אשר אנכי מצוך היום לעשותם” היום לעשותם ולא למחר לעשותם היום לעשותם ולא היום ליטול שכרן.

 

 [To revert to] the above text: R. Joshua b. Levi said: What is the meaning of the verse, “Which I command you this day to do” (Deuteronomy 7:11)? Today is the time to do them, and tomorrow is not the time to do them. Today is the day to do them, but today is not the day to receive their reward.

 

This statement appeared earlier in the context of God asking the non-Jews to perform the mitzvot at the end of days.

 

אמר רבי יהושע בן לוי כל מצות שישראל עושין בעולם הזה באות ומעידות אותם לעולם הבא שנאמר (ישעיהו מג, ט) “יתנו עידיהם ויצדקו ישמעו ויאמרו אמת”, “יתנו עידיהם ויצדקו” אלו ישראל “ישמעו ויאמרו אמת” אלו עובדי כוכבים.

 

Joshua b. Levi also said: All the mitzvot which Israel does in this world will testify on their behalf in the world to come, as it is said, “Let them bring their witnesses that they may be justified; let them hear and say it is truth” (Isaiah 43:9). “Let them bring their witnesses that they may be justified,” this refers to Israel; “let them hear and say it is truth” this refers to the non-Jews.

 

This midrash on Isaiah was the basis of the long eschatological drama with which the tractate opened. It is brought here again because it is another related statement by R. Joshua b. Levi.

 

ואמר רבי יהושע בן לוי כל מצות שישראל עושין בעולם הזה באות וטורפות אותם לעובדי כוכבים לעולם הבא על פניהם שנאמר (דברים ד, ו) ושמרתם ועשיתם כי היא חכמתכם ובינתכם לעיני העמים נגד העמים לא נאמר אלא לעיני העמים מלמד שבאות וטורפות לעובדי כוכבים על פניהם לעוה”ב.

 

Joshua b. Levi also said: All the mitzvot which Israel does in this world will come and strike the non-Jews on their heads in the world to come, as it is said, “You shall observe and do them, for this is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the peoples” (Deuteronomy 4:6) It does not say in the presence of the peoples, but, in the eyes of the peoples, to teach you that they will come and strike the idolaters in their heads in the world to come.

 

This is another statement by R. Joshua b. Levi about Jews and non-Jews in the world to come.

 

וא”ר יהושע בן לוי לא עשו ישראל את העגל אלא ליתן פתחון פה לבעלי תשובה שנאמר (דברים ה, כה) מי יתן והיה לבבם זה להם ליראה אותי כל הימים וגו’

   

Joshua b. Levi further said: The Israelites made the [golden] calf only in order to place a good argument in the mouth of those who do teshuvah (repentance), as it is said, “Would that it were possible that this heart would stay with them and they would revere me forever” (Deuteronomy 5:25).

 

Joshua b. Levi defends the Israelites who worshipped the golden calf. The verse proves the faith of the Israelites that stood at Sinai.

 

והיינו דא”ר יוחנן משום ר”ש בן יוחאי לא דוד ראוי לאותו מעשה ולא ישראל ראוין לאותו מעשה. לא דוד ראוי לאותו מעשה דכתיב (תהלים קט, כב) “ולבי חלל בקרבי”, ולא ישראל ראוין לאותו מעשה דכתיב “מי יתן והיה לבבם זה להם ליראה אותי כל הימים”. אלא למה עשו? לומר לך שאם חטא יחיד אומרים לו כלך אצל יחיד ואם חטאו צבור אומרים לו כלך אצל צבור.

 

This last statement accords with what R. Yohanan said in the name of R. Shimon b. Yohai: David was not the kind of man to do that act, nor was Israel the kind of people to do that act.   David was not the kind of man to do that act, as it is written, “My heart is pierced within me” (Psalms 109:22); nor were the Israelites the kind of people to commit that act, for it is said, “Would that it were possible that this heart would stay with them and they would revere me forever.” Why, then, did they do these things? To teach you that if an individual has sinned, they say to him, “Look to the individual [David],” and if a community has sinned they say to them, “Look to the community [of Israel].”

 

Here R. Yohanan offers the same explanation as above, but this time including a reference to David’s sin with Bathsheva. While we might find it difficult to accept justification for sinning, this is an excellent justification for why we remember our sinning ancestors. The stories we tell are not of perfect individuals or communities. They are of deeply flawed and human characters, struggling to do the right thing, but often succumbing to temptations.

 

וצריכא: דאי אשמועינן יחיד משום דלא מפרסם חטאיה אבל צבור דמפרסם חטאיהו אימא לא, ואי אשמועינן צבור משום דנפישי רחמייהו אבל יחיד דלא אלימא זכותיה אימא לא צריכא.

 

And both these are necessary; for if it had taught only [the case of] the individual, [it might have been thought that teshuvah was possible] because his sin is not well known, but in the case of a community whose sins are well known it might not be so; if, on the other hand, the case of a community only were mentioned, it might have been thought [that teshuvah is possible] because mercy for them is great, but with an individual, whose merits are not so strong, it is not so; hence both are necessary.

 

The Talmud now explains why we needed to learn the examples of both the sinning individual and the sinning community to teach that both individuals and communities can do teshuvah.

 

והיינו דרבי שמואל בר נחמני א”ר יונתן מאי דכתיב (שמואל ב כג, א) נאם דוד בן ישי ונאם הגבר הוקם על נאם דוד בן ישי שהקים עולה של תשובה

 

This accords with the following saying of R. Shmuel b. Nahmani, who said in the name of R. Yonathan: What is it that is written, “The saying of David the son of Jesse, and the saying of the man raised on high” (II Samuel 23:1). The saying of David the son of Jesse, the man who elevated the yoke of repentance.

 

A difficult verse in II Samuel is interpreted as alluding to David’s role as teaching of the possibility of repentance.

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