• Rav Ezra Bick

            Last week, we saw an interesting "slide" in topic, as the gemara moved from a discussion of wine for children to methods for keeping them awake. The common ground was what is distributed (wine or nuts). Today's gemara keeps up that topic slide, as we discuss the mitzva of "simcha" (rejoicing), which also technically is based on giving out wine, or other things.

            We are on 109a, line 6, "tanya, amru alav."

            The webpage for today's shiur is found at

            Let's get started.



It was taught: They said about R. Akiva that he never in his life said, it is time to leave the study hall, except for the eve of Pesach and the eve of Yom Kippur. The eve of Pesach, for the children, that they not sleep; and the eve of Yom Kippur, so that they feed their children.


            The previous gemara had recounted that R. Akiva would distribute nuts and toasts in order to keep the children awake during the seder. Here we see another activity of R. Akiva dedicated to the same goal - that the children not fall asleep.


            What exactly is the connection between leaving the beit midrash, the study hall, and preventing the children from sleeping? Rashi comments simply:



Except for the eve of Pesach - so that the children sleep during the day and not at night during the haggada.


            It is not immediately obvious how leaving the beit midrash encourages children to sleep during the day. This is cleared up once we look at the Rashbam, who gives two explanations. (Those of you who are following in the Hebrew should compare the first explanation in the Rashbam - the first nine words - with Rashi and see if you discern the difference. Once I translate it, the difference will be obvious).



Except for the eve of Pesach - so that they put the children to sleep during the day and not at night during the haggada.

Another possibility - when they delay until the night after it is dark, the children sleep.


            The first explanation of the Rashbam is clearly parallel to Rashi. In fact, in the original Hebrew, there is only a single letter difference between them ("yi'ishnu" in place of "yishnu", which changes "sleep" to "put to sleep"). In all likelihood, the Rashbam read Rashi to mean, "they put the children to sleep."


            The second explanation of the Rashbam does not give the fathers' returning from the beit midrash any active role. Rather, the very fact that they are home during the day will keep the children up. Otherwise, they naturally fall asleep when it gets dark.


            What is the difficulty with the first explanation, given in Rashi, that led the Rashbam to suggest another?




            I think the answer is simple. The people coming home early from the beit midrash were men, since there were no women in the beit midrash. The first explanation suggests that in order to get the children to nap during the day, the fathers had to come home. The question is, obviously, why the mothers could not put them to bed.


            In fact, this question led Tosafot to change the text and the corresponding explanation entirely.


Tosafot s.v. "Chutz"

Except for the eve of Pesach - this is the text-version of R. Shmuel (the Rashbam), but this is not clear, for could they not go to sleep without their fathers? And as for the second explanation, lest they delay until the night after it is very dark, (this too is difficult) for if so they did not need to leave during the day but only at nightfall.

Therefore, it would appear that the text should read "the nights of Pesach" (rather than the eve of Pesach), for they would normally go to the beit midrash on festival nights, as we find (Beitza 21a), "There was a time that Shimon HaTeimani did not come to the beit midrash on the festival nights, and the next day R. Yehuda b. Baba met him."


            Accordingly, R. Akiva did not tell his students to leave the beit midrash at all, he only told them not to come back afterwards, at night.



Let us continue

            Tanu Rabbanan

The Rabbis taught: A man is obligated to bring joy to his children and household on a festival, as is written, "and you shall rejoice on your festivals." With what does he bring them joy? With wine.

R. Yehuda says: Males with what is appropriate for them and women with what is appropriate for them.

Males with what is appropriate for them, with wine; and women with what?

R. Yosef taught: In Babylonia with colored clothes, and in the Land of Israel with ironed linen clothes.

It was taught: R Yehuda b. Beteira says: When the Temple was in existence, rejoicing (simcha) was only with meat, as is written, "You shall bring peace-offerings and eat there, and rejoice before HaShem your God." But now that the Temple is not in existence, rejoicing is only with wine, as is written, "And wine shall rejoice the heart of man."


            One of the mitzva-obligations of a festival is "simcha," a mitzva to rejoice. As the first line of our citation indicates, this is based on a rather explicit verse. The gemara, however, formulates this obligation in relation to others - not to rejoice, but to bring joy to others. Which others? The gemara answers "his children and his household." Why, do you think, does the gemara define this mitzva in this way?




In this case, I am not going to answer this question, but shall leave it open. You are invited to send me your answers though, to the address at the end of the shiur.




            If the obligation had been defined in relation to oneself, the question, "how?" might still have been asked, but it would not have been as obvious. Perhaps the obligation is to feel happy. However, if the obligation is directed to others, there is a need to indicate how it should be accomplished. So our gemara asks, " With what does he bring them joy?"


            The gemara's initial answer is "wine" (which is apparently the connection to our sugya - we started by discussing the obligation of wine during the seder). It would not surprise us if it turned out that a Torah verse that spoke in general terms received a very specific definition - in our case, defining the practical content of "rejoicing" as drinking wine. But it soon turns out that this mitzva is not actually defined so exactly. The actual definition is "what is appropriate for them," which the gemara proceeds to suggest is wine for men and clothing for women. Once we have two such different definitions for men and women, even though there is no reason to assume that the verse is addressing men and women separately, it is clear that the actual obligation is indeed emotional - to rejoice, and the Sages are defining it practically, based on what is "appropriate for them."


            This definition becomes even more complicated when, in the continuation of the gemara, it turns out that in the times of the Temple, the definition of rejoicing was to eat the meat of a sacrifice. In this case, the verse is explicit - you should bring a sacrifice, eat it, and rejoice.


            This situation, whereby a mitzva has a goal (joy) and a defined method of achieving it, will be discussed below at greater length in the supplementary shiur of Rav Kahn.




            We are definitely making more progress this week than in the previous weeks, at least as measured by lines of gemara. Let us continue.


Rav Yitzchak said: The kista (measure) of brine that was in Tzippori was about the size of the "log" of the Temple, and it is what we use to measure the revi'it (quarter log) of Pesach.

Rav Yochanan said: The ancient tamnaita (a different measure) of Teverya was one quarter larger than the present one, and it is what we use to measure the revi'it of Pesach.


            In ancient times there does not exist that standardization of measures we take for granted today. That is why many halakhic measures are taken from common objects (kezayit - olive, tefach - handbreadth). The "log," which is a measure mentioned in the Torah, does not have a common meaning. Therefore, the Sages were suggesting certain well-known measures that could be used for a standard. As can be seen from the statement of Rav Yochanan, the same term does not always, over time, refer to the same measure.


            Rav Chisda proceeds to give a way to calculate liquid measures, including the "log" and the revi'it.


Rav Chisda said: a revi'it of the Torah is two fingers by two fingers by two and a half and a fifth of a finger (2 x 2 x 2.7).

As is taught: "He shall rinse all his flesh with water" - that nothing should come between his flesh and the water.

"With water" - with the water of a mikva (water collected in the ground).

"All his flesh" - enough water so that all his flesh is submerged. And how much is that? - A cubit by a cubit by three cubits, and the Sages estimated the size of a mikva as 40 se'ah.


            This very important passage is the basis for all volume computations in the halakha, as it provides a link between liquid volume (revi'it - log - se'ah) and lengths (finger [etzba] - cubit [amah]). The gemara states that 40 se'ah equals 3 cubic amahs, and that a revi'it (1/4 of a log) equals 10.8 cubic etzbas.


            For your edification, I provide the internal relationships between these two standards.


Length:          1 amah = 6 tefach.

1 tefach = 4 etzba.


Volume:         1 se'ah = 6 kav

                        1 kav = 4 log

                        1 log = 4 revi'it


            The method by which the gemara concluded that if 3 cubic amahs are 40 se'ah, then a revi'it is 2x2x2.7 is fairly straightforward for us, but involved some complicated arithmetic acrobatics for the Rishonim, which is why there is a long Rashi, Rashbam, and Tosafot here.


            By our modern methods, the calculation is as follows:


1) 1 mikva = 40 se'ah = 240 kav = 960 lug = 3840 revi'it.


2) 1 amah (forearm) = 6 tefach (fist) = 24 etzba (finger).


The gemara begins with an equation through which we determine the relationship of the volume measurement system with the linear one:


3) 1 mikva = 1 x 1 x 3 amah or 3 cubic amah.


4) Converting into cubic etzba, based on the fact that an amah = 24 etzba, this translates into 24 x 24 x 72 etzba or 41472 cubic etzba. A revi'it, as we noted, is a mikva divided by 3840 or 10.8 cubic etzba which is exactly 2 x 2 x 2.7 etzba.


            The adventuresome are invited to try and follow the calculations of Tosafot. It is not often that there are illustrations in a gemara, but it is not easy to follow. Knowing the final result will make it only slightly easier.


            That's all for today. I conclude with a short discussion, as promised, by Rav Kahn, of the nature of the mitzva of "simcha."


Rav Yair Kahn

Ve-Samachta be-Chagekha

The gemara mentions a variety of ways to fulfill the mitzva of simchat Yom Tov. Simchat Yom Tov was expressed differently during the time of the Temple than it is today. Men, women and children each attain simchat Yom Tov in distinct ways. According to Tosafot (Mo'ed Katan 14b s.v. Aseh), on the biblical level, the mitzva of simcha is only by partaking of the shalmei simcha (a sacrifice one is obligated to offer during the festivals). The alternate options mentioned in our sugya are rabbinic institutions. However, it appears from the Rambam (Hilkhot Yom Tov 6:17), that all the options mentioned in our sugya are of biblical origin. Rav Soloveitchik zt"l proved from this that the mitzva of simchat Yom Tov does not obligate any specific action. Rather, it demands a certain inner feeling and state of mind. The actions are the means to this end, and therefore, there is flexibility to the manner in which this state is attained. It is dependent on the situation and the specific individual.

Based on this, Rav Soloveitchik explained why Yom Tov suspends mourning (the seven-day period of mourning ends at the commencement of a festival, even if only one day has been observed). After all, on the technical level, there is no necessary contradiction between the prohibitions that apply to a mourner, and the fulfilling of the obligation of simchat Yom Tov. For instance, on Yom Tov one is obligated to drink wine, which is permitted to a mourner. The Rav explained that the contradiction is on the inner experiential level. One cannot experience the joy of Yom Tov while simultaneously feeling the despondency and grief of a mourner. Furthermore, the Rav argued that feeling of simcha on Yom Tov is based on the experience of the encounter with HaShem that is at the root of the festivals. Therefore, during the period of the Temple, the primary method of fulfilling the mitzva of simcha was through partaking of the shalmei simcha. A korban shelamim is characterized as a sacrifice of which all parties - HaShem, the owners, and the kohanim - partake, and thus it expresses the covenant between HaShem and Israel. This experience which is the essence of the obligation of simchat Yom Tov, is incommensurate with the essence of aveilut, which is rooted in the tragic feeling of alienation from life and from HaShem.

[See Shiurim Le-zecher Abba Mari vol. 2 pp. 184-195]