ט״ז באלול ה׳תשע״ד (September 11, 2014)

Hagiga 3a-b: A Little Extra From The Text

The Gemara on our daf quotes a list of aggadic teachings from various Sages.

Rav Kahana quotes Rabbi Natan bar Manyumi in the name of Rabbi Tanhum as offering an interpretation of the passage (Bereshit 37:24) which describes how Yosef’s brothers stripped him and put him in a bor (a pit). The Torah mentions that “the pit was empty; there was no water in it.” If we already have been told that the pit was empty, why does the Torah need to emphasize that there was no water in it? Rather, the Torah was hinting to the fact that although it was empty of water – which we expect to find in a bor – there were other things in it, specifically snakes and scorpions.

One question raised by the commentaries about this interpretation (which has become well-known, since it is quoted in Rashi on the passage in Humash), is that although a close reading of the Torah does indicate that there was something in the pit, how can we reach the conclusion that it was specifically snakes and scorpions? In his Petah Einayim, Rabbi Hayyim Yosef David Azulai quotes the Ari as explaining that only snakes and scorpions – creatures that can hide away in cracks and crevices – could have been in a pit about which we are told “the pit was empty.” Thus the intention of the passage is to say that the pit appeared to be empty, but, in fact, it was inhabited by creatures like these.

Another passage that is interpreted on our daf is quoted in the name of Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya, who expounds on the pasuk (Devarim 31:12) that teaches how every Jewish person – man, woman and child – is obligated to travel to Jerusalem once in seven years for the mitzva of hakhel (assembly). While the men and women come to learn and to listen, what is the purpose of bringing children? Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya explains that it is so that extra reward can be given to those who bring them. The Ri”af explains that this is derived from the unnecessary command to bring children – after all, if the men and women are all in Jerusalem, the children will have to accompany them, since there is no one who is home to tend to them. Thus, if the Torah commands that they be brought, there must be an additional reason for it.

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