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Shabbat Parashat Vayishlach 5781

Ein Ayah: Light or Darkness

(based on Ein Ayah, Shabbat 14:6)

[We continue with Karna and Rav’s discussion when Rav came to Bavel from Eretz Yisrael. Rav sensed Karna was expressing disapproval of his move and reacted to the criticism.]


Light or Darkness

(based on Ein Ayah, Shabbat 14:6)


Gemara: Rav asked: “What is your name?” “Karna.” He said: “May it be His will that a keren will come in your eyes.”


Ein Ayah: The word keren can mean a ray of light – that is dignified and spiritual. It can also mean a horn, which is very different, a coarse material matter.

Rav wanted to remove the complaint that his coming to Bavel from Eretz Yisrael would lower the eternal connection between the nation and the Land and its sanctity. He was insulted that it was not realized that his goal was only to enlighten the eyes of the Babylonian exile and connect them to the light of Torah. This could purify and elevate all of the spiritual feelings from the impurities that polluted them due to their having left the Torah. If people could improve, they would be prepared for the liberation and return to the Land of the Forefathers, to build it and be built up in it in spiritual grandeur.

Rav used Karna’s name as a mashal – if he will be a beam of light, then when put in his eye, he will act in a clear and pleasant manner. If he will follow the material keren, if put in the eye, it will take away his light and impair his vision.

In a similar vein, Rav needed to leave to the diaspora, as the Babylonian community had become ignorant and forsook the Torah, in regard to study and observance. It was necessary to build up the holy national emotions, which are connected to the material world, the world of the land, and elevate them with light and spirituality. Only then would they be ready for liberation, to leave the land of darkness for the place of light, the Holy Land.


Worthwhile Discomfort?

(based on Ein Ayah, Shabbat 14:7)


Gemara: Then they brought Rav to Shmuel’s house. He fed him barley bread and fish brine and had him drink whiskey, and he did not show him where the bathroom was so that he would suffer from his loose stomach. Rav cursed: “He who caused us pain should not have children,” and this is what occurred.  


Ein Ayah: Rav, came to Bavel for Israel’s benefit to calm them in their exile, since he saw in divine inspiration that they would be forced to be in the diaspora for a long time. Exile serves as a smelting pot for the nation, preparing and purifying them, so they will be ready at the end of days to return to the Land in honor. Rav wanted Bavel to be like Eretz Yisrael until the time of liberation. He did not believe the nation’s Torah connection could be sustained without improving the diaspora’s spiritual and physical situation, and he looked for ways to accomplish this.   

Shmuel and many other scholars thought that it was appropriate to move up the end of days by making the ongoing exile impossible. They saw exile as medicine that causes great suffering. Even if in the end it heals, it comes with severe suffering. The hint at this was Rav’s situation of digestive infirmity – he needed to suffer to get better. This is what the Babylonian scholars thought was necessary, and thus they had not yet improved Bavel to rival Eretz Yisrael, which happened after Rav arrived (Gittin 6b).

Rav disagreed and believed the nation could not survive in such a lowly state. He conveyed this by saying that one who caused such pain would not have children. Rav continued his improvements, preparing the people for the eventual liberation.
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