י״א באב ה׳תשע״ב (July 30, 2012)

Nidda 70a-b: Three Questions of Nonsense

As we learned on yesterday’s daf , Rabbi Yehoshua was presented with 12 questions by of Alexandria – three were of hokhmah (knowledge), three were matters of aggada, three were mere nonsense and three were matters of conduct. The nonsense questions – together with the answers supplied by Rabbi Yehoshua – appear on today’s daf.

They asked: Does the wife of Lot (see Bereshit 19:26) convey uncleanness?
He replied: A corpse conveys uncleanness but no pillar of salt conveys uncleanness.

Does the son of the Shunamite (see II Melakhim 4:35) convey uncleanness?
He replied: A corpse conveys uncleanness but no live person conveys uncleanness.

Will the dead in the hereafter require to be sprinkled upon on the third and the seventh (see Bamidbar 19:12) or will they not require it?

He replied: When they will be resurrected we shall go into the matter.
Others say: When they come, our Master Moses will come with them.

There are different opinions about why these questions are labeled “questions of nonsense.” Rashi says that the questions are simply absurd. In his Hokhmat Bezalel, Rabbi Bezalel Ranschberg argues that rather than divrei borut (“nonsense”), the expression should be read divrei borot (“matters of interment”), which merely indicates that these were questions that related to issues having to do with those who died.

In his She’arim ha-Metzuyim ba-Halakha, Rabbi Shlomo Zalmen Braun points out that even though these questions that were posed to Rabbi Yehoshua ben Hananiah were not of great significance, nevertheless he took them seriously and gave substantive answers to them, rather than reject them out of hand. The central idea is that a Sage must be willing to take all questions seriously, even if they are questions that have no significance, since if he refuses to do so the questioner will refrain from turning to him even when he has important issues that need to be discussed.

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