כ״ח באב ה׳תשע״ב (August 16, 2012)

Berakhot 15a-b: What Does a Grave Have To Do With a Womb?

On today’s daf we find that Rabbi Tavi quotes Rabbi Yoshiya regarding a question having to do with the recitation of Shema. Incidental to this statement, the Gemara cites another statement in their name:

And Rabbi Tavi said that Rabbi Yoshiya said: What is meant by that which is written:
“There are three that are never satisfied…the grave and the barren womb” (Mishlei 30:15-16)? What does a grave have to do with a womb? Rather, this juxtaposition comes to tell you: Just as a womb takes in and gives forth, so too a grave takes in and gives forth with the resurrection of the dead.
And is this not an a fortiori inference: Just as the fetus is placed into the womb in private, and the baby is removed from it with loud cries at childbirth; the grave into which the deceased is placed with loud cries of mourning at burial, is it not right that the body should be removed with loud cries? From this verse there is a refutation to those who say that there is no Torah source for the resurrection of the dead.

The passage in Mishlei refers to three entities that are never satisfied: The grave, the womb, and the earth.

The Maharsha explains that it is only with regard to the earth that the verse specifies that it can never get enough water. With regard to the grave and the womb, the verse does not specify what it is of which they can never get enough. Therefore, the Gemara concludes: The verse remained silent with regard to these two juxtaposed entities to underscore a connection between them. The Gra suggests that the four daughters mentioned in the verse represent the four primordial elements: The grave represents earth, the womb represents wind, the earth not satisfied with water represents water, and fire is, obviously, fire. The Gemara noted that rather than juxtapose the grave, representing earth, to earth not satisfied with water, the verse inserted the womb in between. This is because the earth and the womb have motherhood and birth in common, as man was created from the earth (Vilna Gaon on Mishlei 30:16).

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