כ״ב בתמוז ה׳תשע״ב (July 12, 2012)

Nidda 52a-b: Punishing an Enemy

According to the Talmudic Sages, one of the indications of physical maturity is the appearance of two pubic hairs. In a segue from the halakhic discussion of this topic, the Gemara quotes a passage from the Sefer Iyyov in which Iyyov complains:

“He that would break me with a tempest, and multiply my wounds without cause” (Iyyov 9:17).

The Gemara brings Rava’s explanation of this pasuk .

Iyov blasphemed with the mention of tempest and he was answered with a tempest. He ‘blasphemed with the mention of tempest’, saying to Him, ‘Sovereign of the world, perhaps a tempest has passed before Thee, and caused Thee to confuse “Iyyov” with “Oyev” [enemy]?’‘ He was answered with a tempest’: Then the Lord answered Iyyov out of the whirlwind, and said to him, ‘Most foolish man, I have created many hairs in a man’s head and for every hair I have created a separate follicle, so that two should not suck from the same follicle, for if two were to suck from the same follicle they would impair the sight of man. I did not confuse one follicle with another, would I confuse “Iyov” and “Oyev”?’

In his Ben Yehoyadah, Rav Yosef Hayyim quotes the Ar”i as explaining that Iyyov’s punishment was tzora’at (see Iyyov 2:7). Based on a word-play from a passage in Sefer Shmot (15:6) we can determine that the appropriate punishment for an enemy is tzora’at, since the pasuk reads: “Thy right hand, O LORD, tir’atz oyev – dasheth in pieces the enemy,” and the letters making up the word tir’atz can be rearranged into tzora’at. This connects with a teaching that appears in the Zohar that claims that Iyyov was the adviser to the Egyptian Pharaoh who recommended that the Children of Israel should be enslaved (in contrast with the position of the Gemara in Massekhet Sota, daf 11a that Iyyov remained silent when asked what should be done to the Jews). For this reason, Iyyov felt that he may have been taken for an enemy of God.

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