Shabbat Parashat Vayechi | 5770
Ein Ayah: To Not Know Evil or To Ignore It
(based on Berachot 3:22)
Gemara: Rav Yitzchak said: Whoever speaks negatively about the deceased is like one who speaks about a rock. Some say that this is because they do not know [what he said]; some say that they know but do not care.
Ein Ayah: Although it was decided that the powers that grasp physical matters remain after death, this is only in regard to powers that are positive for the spirit that grasps them. However, those powers that detract should not continue to exist.
Since a person’s shleimut (completeness) dictates that he should pay no attention to that which people speak about him, the ability to discern such an activity is lost to the deceased. It is an open question whether the negation of evil is of a higher level of shleimut than if the evil did not exist at all. Alternatively, it is possible that evil must exist because of the existence of the material world, as the philosophers say. While Divine wisdom advises how to negate evil, its negation does not make things better than if one knew no evil.
According to those who say that negating evil is not a higher level, we should posit that the deceased does not even recognize when people speak negatively about him, for why should the spirit retain that negative power? According to the approach that negating the evil is a higher level, it is better for the spirit to maintain the ability to know what is said about it. In that case, the shleimut of tolerance, which elevates the spirit, remains to negate the bad tendency to be upset by what someone else speaks about it. This explains the gemara’s opinion that the spirit knows but does not care.
Restraining Disrespectful Thoughts
(based on Berachot 3:23)
Gemara: There was a certain person who spoke negatively about Shmuel after his death; a rafter fell down and pierced the lining of his brain.
Ein Ayah: The brain is the place of the intellect, and its lining restrains and surrounds it. This teaches us that a person’s shleimut limits his thoughts, not allowing them to roam free. This is important so that a person acquires the attribute of respecting his Master and not philosophizing about that which is beyond him.
The honor of Hashem is increased in the world only by those who show respect to the Torah and those who study it. Therefore, one who disgraces a talmid chacham is considered an apikorus, like one who ruins his intellect by sending it free to philosophize about that which is beyond him and that which was not permitted for the normal human to contemplate at all. From the decreasing of the honor of a talmid chacham will come the decreasing of the honor of Hashem. This is referred to by the pasuk “They placed their mouths in the heavens” (Tehillim 73:9) due to “their tongues would walk through the land” (ibid.).
Therefore, regarding the person discussed in the gemara, when he spoke against the honor of a talmid chacham, a rafter fell to show that there had been a diminishing of the honor of the heaven (the rafter symbolizing the seat of Hashem’s glory). We find such a comparison when Rava, as a child, was asked where Hashem was and pointed to the ceiling. (Berachot 48a). This showed that the intellect of the one who criticized Shmuel was like that of a child in comparison to Shmuel’s mature intellect, and it took terrible gall to criticize Shmuel. They showed him that due to the decreasing of the honor of the heavens, he would lose the use of the lining of his brain, which was supposed to restrain him from letting his mind roam unimpeded. This punishment came because Hashem stood up for the honor of talmidei chachamim, the pillars of morality and justice. The complete service of Hashem in the world depends on the honor of the Torah and those who study it.
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