Spare the Rod

Daf 7. Summary. Isaiah 56:7 teaches that God prays. The Gemara asks “What does God pray?” God prays that His mercy will overcome His anger. Rabbi Yishmael Ben Elisha entered the Holy of Holies and God asked the rabbi to bless him. This teaches “that you should not take the blessing of an ordinary person lightly.”

The Gemara considers God’s anger and how long it lasts. Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi sleeps through the moment of God’s anger on the morning he had planned to harness it to curse a certain heretic, learning from this that “it is not proper conduct to . . . curse people, even if they are wicked.” More generally, it is “inappropriate to cause the punishment of another.” Rabbi Yose: “A single regret . . . in one’s heart is preferable to many lashes.”

Sometimes the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper — could these be the rewards or punishments from an ancestor’s merit or transgression? Contradictory verses support and undermine this theory. The Gemara resolves the contradictions so that degrees of righteousness and wickedness lead to more or less punishment in this world and the world to come. Even Moses was denied a clear understanding of God’s ways. God’s response to Moses: “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious.”

The Gemara cites several statements testifying to Abraham’s virtue. Abraham was the first to articulate the concept of divine providence, for example. Leah is identified as the first to express gratitude to God. The etymology of several Biblical names is traced.

Returning to the wicked, Rabbi Shimon ben Yomi says, “One is permitted to provoke the wicked in this world.” The Gemara qualifies this: such provocation must not originate from envy or it risks imitating those one is provoking.

The daf concludes with consideration of a teaching of Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai: “Service of Torah is greater than its study” and the dilemma of Rav Nahman, who is too weak to go to the synagogue to pray but reluctant to ask a minyan to form in his home (and take them away from the synagogue). Rav Yitzhak suggests he ask the congregation to send a messenger when they begin to pray so he may pray at the same time,

Comment. In yesterday’s daf it was established that God wears tefillin. Today it is established that God prays and that God becomes angry, but that His prayer is that His mercy will outweigh His anger. We are given a model to be teachers to our fellows; to lead them to regret their associate’s transgression by expressing empathy, rather than to create resistance by offering a stern rebuke. Look also to provide positive service such as to alert those who are too weak to attend to prayer at the synagogue when the prayers are beginning so that they can join in at a distance. The impact our actions have upon others, both positive and negative, should be our foremost consideration in all our interactions.

Follow this link to a post that compares the daf yomi practice to marriage and sheds further light on service of the Torah.

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2 Responses to Spare the Rod

  1. elenizl says:

    Lovely!

  2. Charles Hollander says:

    I was struck by the passage from the questioning of the wicked prospering to the desire to see God. First the answer comes, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious,” i.e. Ehyeh asher ehyeh, I yam what I yam, and then “Thou canst not see my face,” as if to question God’s justice is the same as to ask to see His face. The punch line is that his back can be seen, which is how we know God showed Moses the knot of the tefillin. So at least we know that much.

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