י״ט בכסלו ה׳תשע״ו (December 1, 2015)

Sota 36a-b: And I Will Send the Hornet Before You

Our Gemara is continuing the ongoing discussion of the Children of Israel entering the Land of Israel after their trek through the desert. One of the topics discussed on today’s daf is the passage that “the tzira will be sent before the people” in order to drive out the Canaanite nations (see Shemot 23:28). The Targumim and most of the commentaries translate tzira as a type of flying insect, likely a large hornet of the species Vespa orientalis – commonly known as the Oriental wasp. This insect has a painful sting, which is particularly potent if it stings a sensitive part of the body. An attack by a group of these hornets can bring about a person’s death. The ibn Ezra suggests that the word tzira refers to a type of disease (like tzara’at) but our Gemara does not appear to support such an approach.

The Gemara attempts to understand how to reconcile a baraita that says that the tzira did not actually enter the land of Israel with the passage quoted above that seems to indicate that they did.

Reish Lakish suggests that the tzira stopped at the banks of the Jordan River, shooting their venom across onto the Canaanites, blinding their eyes above and castrating them below (based on Amos 2:9).

Rav Pappa suggests that there were two separate groups of tzira – one connected to Moshe, which only accompanied the Jewish people until the Jordan River, and another connected to Yehoshua, which entered the land. Although there is no real source for the idea that there was a separate group of tzira accompanying Yehoshua, the Iyyun Ya’akov suggests that the promise made to Yehoshua that all of the miracles that were done for Moshe would be done for him, as well, can be understood as a source for the hornets assisting him, as well.

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