כ״ג במרחשון ה׳תשע״ד (October 27, 2013)

Shekalim 9a-b: One Thing Leads to Another

The Gemara on our daf quotes a well-known statement in the name of Rabbi Pinehas ben Yair that appears a number of times in the Talmud. There are different versions of this text, one of which appears below:

And so Rabbi Pinehas ben Yair would say: Alacrity in the proper performance of the mitzvot leads to cleanliness of the soul, so that one will not sin. Cleanliness of the soul and refraining from all sin leads to purity, so that one purifies his soul from his previous sins. Purity leads to holiness. Holiness leads to humility, as one recognizes his lowliness. Humility leads to fear of sin, because when one recognizes his inferiority, he becomes more fearful of sin and is careful to avoid temptation. Fear of sin leads to piety, as one begins to impose upon himself stringencies beyond the letter of the law. Piety leads to the holy spirit, because when one acts in a manner that goes beyond the letter of the law, Heaven acts with him in a way that is not natural to man, and informs him of the secrets of the Torah through divine inspiration. The holy spirit leads to the resurrection of the dead, because the spirit of holiness and purity that descend upon him enter the bones of the deceased and resurrect them. The resurrection of the dead that will precede the arrival of the Messiah leads to the coming of the Prophet Elijah, of blessed memory, who will herald the upcoming redemption.

Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Luzzato based his master-work, the Messilat Yesharim, on this baraita. The Messilat Yesharim is, in effect, a book-long analysis of the ideas set forth here. Let us examine a small selection of them.

“Cleanliness” (nekiyut) is understood as avoidance of sin (Rashi) or evil thoughts (Re’ah). Rabbi Ya’akov Emden suggests that it also refers to physical cleanliness of the body, clothing, etc. which also plays a role in elevating a person to a higher spiritual realm.

“Purity” (tahara) leads to “holiness” (kedusha) because a person who has removed himself from the drives and desires of this world will be able to turn his attention to the love of God and of man beyond what he is obligated to do based on the letter of the law.

“Resurrection of the dead” (tehiyat ha-metim) is explained by the Nemukei Yosef as meaning that the person on this level will be able to successfully pray on behalf of someone like the stories of the prophets and sages who successfully revived people who appeared to be dead. The Maharashdam suggests that, based on the idea that evil people are considered as if they were dead, someone who influences such a person to repent is considered to have brought him back to life.

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