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Shabbat Parashat Nitzavim Vayeilech| 5770

Hemdat HaDaf Hayomi: One Mitzvah (Avodah Zarah 18a)

Rav Ofer Livnat

Elul 19-25, Avodah Zarah 15-21

This week in the Daf Hayomi, several of the dapim (pages) consist mostly of issues of aggadah. One of the aggadot that the Rishonim deal with is the conversation between Rabbi Chanina ben Tradyon and Rabbi Yossi ben Kisma. At that time, the Roman Empire prohibited the teaching of Torah.  Despite the decree, Rabbi Chanina, continued to teach Torah in public. When Rabbi Yossi became sick, Rabbi Chanina came to visit him, and Rabbi Yossi warned him that the Romans will punish him for his actions. Rabbi Chanina asked him if he will be accepted to Olam Haba, the world to come. Rabbi Yossi asked him if there was any special thing that he did. Rabbi Chanina told him of a special case where he gave Tzedakah. Rabbi Yossi responded: "If so, then my share should be like yours, and my fate should be like yours!"

At first glance, Rabbi Yossi's question about a single special act seems puzzling. How can one determine whether a person will receive Olam Haba on the basis of one action? Isn't that determined on the basis of a person's entire actions through the course of his life?

The Rambam (commentary to the Mishna Makkot 3, 16) learns a fundamental idea from this Gemara. He explains that if a person fulfills a Mitzvah in a complete fashion, with the proper intentions, then he merits Olam Haba through that single mitzvah. Rabbi Yossi's question to Rabbi Chanina was if he ever did a Mitzvah in such a complete fashion, without any other intentions. Rabbi Chanina answered that one time he had the opportunity to do the Mitzvah of Tzedakah in such a fashion, and through this act he merited a share in Olam Haba.

With this understanding, the Rambam explains another puzzling statement of Chazal. The Mishna (Makkot 3, 16) states: "Rabbi Chanina ben Akashya said: Hashem wanted to reward Am Yisrael and therefore he gave them many Mitzvot." It seems strange that the abundance of Mitzvot is a reward, since, the more demands there are, the harder it is to fulfill all of them.

The Rambam explains that just the opposite is the case. Since there are so many Mitzvot, it is certain that at least once in his life, a person will fulfill a Mitzvah in a complete fashion, and, through that Mitzvah, merit Olam Haba.


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This week’s Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of
R' Meir ben
Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld


Hemdat Yamim is endowed by
Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker and
Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.

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