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Shabbat Parashat Ki Teitzei 5773

Ein Ayah: Preserving the Greatness of Previous Generations

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 9:324)

Gemara: When Chananya the nephew of Rabbi Yehoshua went out to the Diaspora, he would set leap years and decide on the beginning of the new month. [The Rabbis of Eretz Yisrael] sent two scholars, Rabbi Yossi ben Kipper and the grandson of Zecharia ben Kabutal [to protest his usurping of the authority reserved for the scholars of Eretz Yisrael]. When Chanaya saw them, he asked: “Why did you come?” They answered: “We came to study Torah.” Chananya announced about them: “These men are leaders of the generation, and their forefathers served in the Beit Hamikdash” …


Ein Ayah: If we look at the level of a generation just as it leaves its period of worth and the nation enters a lowly and broken state in exile, it will be very lacking, because exile steals much of the greatness of spirit. However, the advantage of the leaders of the generation is that they are able to preserve the attributes of their forefathers, who were complete in their spirit because they lived at a time when the nation was at a state of national normalcy and spiritual advantage. Specifically, because the forefathers of these great men served in the Beit Hamikdash, they were able to preserve a level missing from that of the nation, which was already afflicted by exile and dispersion.



Who Deserves to be Followed

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 9:325)


Gemara: … They started [discussing Torah.] Rav Chananya ruled that something was impure, and they ruled it was pure. He would say something was forbidden, and they would say that it was permitted. Chanaya announced about them: “These are men of falsehood and of void.” They said to him: “You have already built, and you are not able to undo. You have already erected fences, and you cannot dismantle them.”


Ein Ayah: A person who is fit to stand at the nation’s helm so that people should follow his rulings and instructions needs two things to complete his status. He must have great intellect, so that there can be a presumption that all that he says is true. He also must be a holy person in actions, characteristics, and feelings, so that he can be one who is worthy of being looked to and followed and his opinions be honored. Out of a person of such distinction shall come an order of goodness, righteousness, and kindness in the nation. Then it becomes less important that a specific statement he makes is correct, because it is worthwhile for the nation to be in the practice of accepting his words due to the praiseworthiness of his behavior.

That is what was important about the original endorsement of the two visiting rabbis. They were people of great intellect and spiritual standing, which was enhanced by their connection to the era of the Beit Hamikdash. Therefore, when Chananya wanted to retract the suggestion that people should follow them, he said that they were men of falsehood, which is the opposite of great wisdom. In regard to the spiritual level and sanctity that made them fit to be followed even if they could not prove they were right, he said that they were men of void.

They responded that Chananya had already built them up, an appropriate metaphor for wisdom, as the pasuk says, “With wisdom he will build a house” (Mishlei 24:3), with each room existing for its proper purpose. As far as the spiritual characteristics that make a person fit to be followed, the proper metaphor is that of having fences erected, which in this case meant that Chanaya did not have the right to dismantle their reputation of fine qualities.   
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