י״א בסיון ה׳תשע״ו (June 17, 2016)

Bava Kamma 17a-b: They Established a Yeshiva at His Grave

The first perek of Massekhet Bava Kamma closes with a series of stories, including descriptions of the honor given to Hezekiah, the King of Judea, when he died. According to the Gemara, the passage (II Divrei HaYamim 32:33) describing the great honor shown to the king at his death refers to the establishment of a  – Torah study – at his burial place. Three opinions are presented with regard to the length of time that the learning sessions continued – three days, seven days or thirty days. These different views represent different periods of mourning. According to the halakha the first three days of mourning are days devoted to crying, followed by seven days of shiva, which are the most serious period of mourning, while the first thirty days are the time of minhagei aveilut – mourning traditions – and eulogies.

The honor given to King Hezekiah stems from his efforts to follow halakha and to spread Torah throughout the Land of Israel. With regard to establishing a yeshiva in his place of burial, Tosafot ask how such a thing could have been done, since it is forbidden to speak words of Torah in the immediate vicinity of a dead person. Tosafot suggest that the yeshiva may have been established a short distance from the burial plot. The R”i Migash discusses this question at length and concludes that Torah study in the vicinity of the dead is only forbidden if it is done for the living – if its purpose is to honor the dead, however, it would not be prohibited. Given that the yeshiva was established to honor King Hizkiyahu, it would certainly be permitted. Rashi (Massekhet Yevamot 122a) quotes Ge’onim who described that the tradition in Bavel was to visit the tombs of the Amora’im on the anniversary of their deaths and study there in their honor.