ה׳ בכסלו ה׳תשע״ו (November 17, 2015)

Sota 22a-b: Those Whose Actions Erode the World

On yesterday’s daf we learned about Rabbi Yehoshua’s teaching in the Mishna (20a) that a number of people are considered mevalei olam – those whose actions erode the world. Makot perushin (those who injure themselves out of false abstinence) are yet another example that Rabbi Yehoshua presents as mevalei olam. Our Gemara teaches that there are seven types of perushin that fall into this category, the common thread among them is that these people are hypocrites who present themselves as God-fearing, religious people when in fact they are just putting on a show.

The Gemara concludes with the advice that King Yannai offered his wife Shlomzion before his passing. He told her that she should fear neither the perushin nor the zedukim, but rather she should fear the hypocrites who present themselves as though they are perushin, when in fact they are not. “Their actions are those of Zimri (see Bamidbar 25:14) but they expect to be rewarded like Pinehas (see Bamidbar 25:10-13).”

The perushin are the Pharisees, of the Talmud, while the zedukim are the Sadducees, the elite class that rejected many of the traditions of the perushin. According to the Gemara, King Yannai was suggesting to his wife – who was to take the throne upon his passing – that although the he and the perushin had been enemies throughout his life, she had nothing to fear from them, since they would not hold his excesses and cruelty against her. Those who use the crown of Torah to further their personal objectives were the dangerous ones.

This deathbed speech is recorded differently in Josephus (Book XIII, Chapter 15, number 5), where we find King Yannai telling his wife that she should run her affairs of state entirely according to the direction of the perushin. Historical evidence shows that she did so throughout her rule.

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