י״ג בכסלו ה׳תשע״ג (November 27, 2012)

Shabbat 55a-b: Sinners in the Bible

The Gemara on today’s daf turns its attention to prominent sinners – and non-sinners – in the Bible. Regarding those who never sinned the Gemara teaches:

Four people died due to etyo shel nahash – Adam’s sin with the serpent – in the wake of which death was decreed upon all of mankind, although they themselves were free of sin. And they are: Benjamin, son of Jacob; Amram, father of Moses; Yishai, father of David; and Kilab, son of David.

Some commentaries interpret the word etyo in this context as its pen [eto], meaning: This decree that people will die was written from the time of the serpent (see Bereishit Chapter 3;  Aruk).

Having mentioned some of the significant ancestors of the Jewish people, the Gemara now addresses the sins of several other Biblical figures.

 

Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani said that Rabbi Yonatan said: Anyone who says that Reuben sinned with Bilhah is nothing other than mistaken.

Similar statements are recorded in the Gemara about King David, King Solomon, the sons of Eli and others about whom stories are told in the Bible that appear to portray them as having sinned.

In his Ein Ayah Rav Kook explains that Torah narratives are constructed with Divine wisdom, and their purpose is to impress upon the reader certain Heavenly lessons. In some cases, the most fundamental message of the narrative cannot be properly related through a straightforward presentation, and God employs metaphor so that the story’s moral will be understood. As time passes, if the metaphor is no longer clear, the lesson may be misinterpreted as well; and it is, then, the responsibility of to utilize their expertise in the oral tradition and clarify matters. By synthesizing the simple meaning of the Bible text with the profound interpretive methodology of the Sages, they arrive at an understanding that once again reflects the true lesson of the Torah

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