Thursday, February 7, 2008

Daf: Nedarim 50-51

On 50b Shemuel is put down for his large stomach, which is odd; Rabbi Yochanan is described elsewhere (such as Berachos 5b and 20a) as being of surpassing beauty, and yet the gemara calls him a Baal Basar (Rubenesque) (such as Berachos 13b and Niddah 14a)!

Those who complain about expensive weddings should wonder at Rebbe's son's wedding on 50b. Of course, Rebbe was the Nasi, with political responsibilities involving the Romans as well as the Jews, but the idea of spending such a sum - and inscribing it on the chuppah! - is still remarkable.

50b also introduces the concept of an individual's suffering saving others from Divine punishment. We also see this elsewhere in the gemara, regarding misas tzaddikim mechaperes and Miriam's death. This is also the likely basis for the Christian concept of vicarious atonement. We have a different take, though. As I understand it, an individual will always have to answer for his sins, no matter how much someone else (such as Rebbe) sufffers. The tzibbur, though, may be saved from tzibbur-wide punishments, due to an individual's suffering - because when an individual suffers, the tzibbur is said to have suffered as well. There is much more to say on this, of course.

On 51b we get the word "tefel" as bland; some some use this to explain "tiflut" on Sotah 20a, in the position of Rabbi Eliezer on women's talmud torah.

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