י״ח במרחשון ה׳תשע״ו (October 31, 2015)

Sota 5a-b: Even a Slight Wind Disturbs Him

Today’s daf focuses – almost in its entirety – on the evils of gasei ha-rua’h: arrogance. A lengthy list of Sages offer prooftexts from Tanakh all of which clearly indicate that pride is a destructive force.

One example is the teaching presented by Rabbi Alexandri, who says that someone who is a person with gasut ha-rua’h will be disturbed by even the lightest of winds, based on the pasuk, “Ve-ha- ka-yam nigrash,” (see Yeshayahu 57:20). Rabbi Alexandri explains that if the ocean – which contains many rivi’iyot is pushed and pulled by the wind, certainly a human being who has just one revi’it of blood will be buffeted by the wind, as well.

This teaching is difficult since we know that a human body has much more than a single revi’it of blood, something pointed out by the rishonim. While some suggest that Rabbi Alexandri is referring to a baby, even so we must explain that the intention is the amount of blood whose removal would put the child in danger, since even a baby has more than a revi’it of blood in his or her body. Another suggestion is that this statement refers to the amount of blood that is in the human heart. This explanation works well with the fact that every heartbeat expels about 80 cubic centimeters of blood, which is approximately equivalent to a revi’it.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Gemara continues with the statement of Ḥiyya bar Ashi who quotes Rav as saying that it is essential that a Torah scholar should have some small amount of gasut ha-rua’h – he says “one eighth of one eighth” – which, Rashi explains, is the smallest measurable amount that has its own name. Rav Huna the son of Rav Yehoshua teaches that such gasut ha-rua’h crowns the scholar like a sasa (awn of bristle-like growth on the top of the husk) crowns the stalk of wheat. The Meiri explains this simile by saying that just as the sasa protects the wheat, similarly a minimal amount of pride will protect the scholar from being looked down upon by others.

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