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Shabbat Parashat Pinchas 5772

Ein Ayah: Adjusting to the Students Training

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 9:96)

Gemara: [Rava] said: “I saw [in my dream] that Abayei’s house fell, and it covered me with dirt.” [The interpreter] responded: “Abayei will die, and his academy will join you.”


Ein Ayah: Abayei and Rava, who were different in terms of many approaches and halachic understandings, surely also had differences in their approaches to ethics and modes of education in Torah, service of Hashem, and spiritual shleimut (completeness). Therefore, the students in Abayei’s academy certainly were impacted from the education they received from Abayei and thus were different from students of Rava. The general rule is that it is dangerous to move a student from one educational system to another, as the gemara (Chagiga 10a) deduces from the pasuk (Zecharia 8:10): “To the one who leaves and the one who comes there is no peace.”

Therefore, when Abayei’s students came to Rava to continue their education, Rava had to learn to adopt elements of Abayei’s educational approach as it related to Abayei’s former students. This in turn required fully understanding Abayei’s approach. This was hinted at in the dream of being covered with the dust of Abayei’s home. In other words, elements of Abayei’s approach and the style of his spirit had to be incorporated into Rava’s persona while he was teaching those who were used to that system. 


Atonement Through Self-Exile

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 9:105)


Gemara: [Bar Hedya had selfishly caused Rava inestimable damage, and Rava, upon discovering that fact, cursed him. Bar Hedya] said [to himself]: “We have learned that the curse of a scholar, even if done without justification, comes about, and this should certainly be so in this case, where Rava was justified in cursing me. I will get up and go into exile, as it has been said: ‘Exile atones for sins.’”


Ein Ayah: The main idea of punishment for sin is based on the fact that a person does not exist as an individual but is connected to the community and that the sin has a negative impact on the community, as well as the world in general. Therefore, it is not possible to just receive forgiveness from an individual, for no one can forgive the damage caused to the collective. All of this applies whether the sin was between man and man or between man and Hashem because the deterioration in the level of sanctity that exists in the group’s spiritual life impacts on everyone.

When one voluntarily goes into exile due to his sins, he admits that his evil ways have damaged the community, and he therefore leaves it and goes to exist as an individual, unconnected to his former community. As an individual who no longer causes damage to the community, it is easier for him to receive atonement, and his realization of the damage he caused puts him on the path to repentance.

The path of exile as atonement for sins is particularly appropriate when one’s affront prompted a curse from a scholar. After all, the special standing of a scholar comes from the fact that the community is dependent on the scholar’s guidance, which requires people to take his guidance seriously. It would be problematic if the sinner’s atonement staved off the scholar’s curse from taking effect, for then people would not take the scholar seriously. Therefore, the sinner has a better chance of atonement elsewhere. When a person knowingly separates himself from the community, then it is easier for him to say, “How does my sin impact on you?” (Iyov 7:20), for punishments are most related to public matters.

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Hemdat Yamim

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