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Shabbat Parashat Behaalotcha 5775

Ein Ayah: Adding to the Beracha of the More Broadly Prepared

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 2:30)

Gemara: Rav Huna used to pass by the entrance of the house of Rabbi Avin the Carpenter and saw many Shabbat candles lit. He said: “Two great men will come from here.” Rav Idi bar Avin and Rav Chiya bar Avin came from them. Rav Chisda used to pass by the entrance to the house of Rav Shizbi’s father and saw many Shabbat candles lit. He said: “A great man will come from here.” Rav Shizbi came from them.


Ein Ayah: The inner desire to create significant sacred light can expand based on an act of a related mitzva such as Shabbat candles to add vitality to the spirit in a way that enables it to produce light of Torah in the world and thereby light up dark places. This spiritual power from the mitzva can emerge by one’s child being a talmid chacham who lights up the world’s darkness.

The extent to which the mitzva impacts spiritually depends on the preparation of the person who performs the mitzva to receive the good result. In general, the light of Torah can be divided into the practical and the theoretical, which, for example, is behind the distinction between halacha and the Torah’s philosophical elements. Some are oriented toward the practical and focus on it, whereas others focus on the theoretical.

In general, the human mind is divided into these two categories. It is worthwhile for a person to have capabilities in both realms, but it is common for a person who is great in one realm to be lacking in the other. There are some unique people who have in their spirit double capabilities; their theoretical side does not impinge on their practical side and they are able to reach achievement in both. In fact, with these two areas of capability, they are able to accomplish things that give added power to each specific realm.

The activities in which a person is involved often indicate his inner strengths. If one is wise, it is a sign that he possesses the ability to be wise. If one is a craftsman, he must have natural abilities in that realm. Being a talmid chacham requires theoretical, conceptual wisdom, as even the practical side of Torah is based on conceptual depth. Ability in craftsmanship is certainly related to the practical side, which is also called a form of wisdom (see the p’sukim, such as Shemot 35:31-33, regarding the artisans who constructed the Mishkan and its vessels).

When Hashem’s blessing and the spiritual result of his mitzva take hold on one who performs it by finding positive expression in his son, it usually takes effect within the bounds of ability that the father passed on to his son. The storehouse of the father’s strengths transferred to his son, whether or not the father maximized them, usually relates to either the practical or the theoretical realm. However, when someone, in addition to being a talmid chacham, is also an artisan, this is a sign that he possesses strength in both realms. The greatest blessing is that the twin tendencies will find positive expression in his sons, enabling them to reach full greatness.

Rabbi Avin the Carpenter possessed both practical and theoretical strengths, as his name indicated. Therefore, Rav Huna expected his inclination toward light to result in two sons who are talmidei chachamim reaching full greatness. Rav Chisda, in contrast, did not see double strength in Rav Shizbi’s father. He was thus concerned that if he would spread the blessing over multiple offspring, the blessing would be weakened, as happens when greatness is limited to one realm. He reasoned that high quality in one person was preferable to quantity that is more modest. Under such circumstances, he preferred a person specializing in one field, as we find Levi’im who either tend to the gates or to singing, and as we find one who is a king or a kohen but not both.

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