Sunday, September 30, 2012

Berachot 54: Miracles personal and non-existent

I forgot to publish this one in its proper time, so I'll put it up now. In terms of material for daf 60, I have tow parshablog posts. Regarding vain prayers, see what I wrote here. Regarding the prayer for bloodletting, see what I wrote here.

The Mishna (54a) stated:
הרואה מקום שנעשו בו נסים לישראל אומר ברוך שעשה נסים לאבותינו במקום הזה.
There appears to be a dispute between Bavli and Yerushalmi here as to whether an individual needs to bless for a miracle that happened to him in particular. Thus, in Bavli (54b):
GEMARA. Whence is this rule17  derived? — R. Johanan said: Because Scripture says, And Jethro said, Blessed be the Lord who hath delivered you, etc.18  And is a blessing said only for a miracle wrought for a large body, but not for one wrought for an individual? What of the case of the man Who was once travelling through Eber Yemina19  when a lion attacked him, but he was miraculously saved, and when he came before Raba he said to him, Whenever you pass that place say, Blessed be He who wrought for me a miracle in this place? There was the case, too, of Mar the son of Rabina who was once going through the valley of 'Araboth20  and was suffering from thirst and a well of water was miraculously created for him and he drank, and another time he was going through the manor of Mahoza21  when a wild camel attacked him and at that moment the wall of a house just by fell in and he escaped inside; and whenever thereafter he came to 'Araboth he used to say, Blessed be He who wrought for me miracles in 'Araboth and with the camel, and when he passed through the manor of Mahoza he used to say, Blessed be He who wrought for me miracles with the camel and in 'Araboth? — The answer [is that] for a miracle done to a large body it is the duty of everyone to say a blessing, for a miracle done to an individual he alone22  is required to say a blessing.
But in Yerushalmi (62a) we see that indeed, even an individual does not bless upon a miracle which happened to him personally:
מתני' בנסי ישראל אבל בנסי יחידי שנעשו לו אינו צריך לברך.
The brayta mentions the miracle of Og Melech HaBashan:
תנו רבנן הרואה מעברות הים ומעברות הירדן מעברות נחלי ארנון אבני אלגביש במורד בית חורון ואבן שבקש לזרוק עוג מלך הבשן על ישראל ואבן שישב עליה משה בשעה שעשה יהושע מלחמה בעמלק ואשתו של לוט וחומת יריחו שנבלעה במקומה על כולן צריך שיתן הודאה ושבח לפני המקום
Or, in English:
Our Rabbis taught: If one sees the place of the crossing of the Red Sea, or the fords of the Jordan, or the fords of the streams of Arnon, or hail stones [abne elgabish] in the descent of Beth Horon, or the stone which Og king of Bashan wanted to throw at Israel, or the stone on which Moses sat when Joshua fought with Amalek, or [the pillar of salt of] Lot's wife,23  or the wall of Jericho which sank into the ground,24  for all of these he should give thanksgiving and praise to the Almighty. 
And then, an elaboration of the nes involving Og:
'The stone which Og, king of Bashan wanted to throw at Israel'. This has been handed down by tradition. He said: How large is the camp of Israel? Three parasangs. I will go and uproot a mountain of the size of three parasangs and cast it upon them and kill them. He went and uprooted a mountain of the size of three parasangs and carried it on his head. But the Holy One, blessed be He, sent ants which bored a hole in it, so that it sank around his neck. He tried to pull it off, but his teeth projected on each side, and he could not pull it off. This is referred to in the text, Thou hast broken the teeth of the wicked,9  as explained by R Simeon b. Lakish. For R. Simeon b. Lakish said: What is the meaning of the text, Thou hast broken the teeth of the wicked? Do not read, shibbarta [Thou hast broken], but shirbabta [Thou hast lengthened]. The height of Moses was ten cubits.10  He took an axe ten cubits long, leapt ten cubits into the air, and struck him on his ankle and killed him.
Some Rishonim interpret this allegorically. But if all is allegorical, then why would the brayta establish a blessing upon seeing that stone?

What about Lot's wife?
'Lot's wife'. As it says, But his wife looked back from behind him and she became a pillar of salt.12
Some meforshim (such as Ralbag) understand that the pasuk,
וַתַּבֵּט אִשְׁתּוֹ, מֵאַחֲרָיו; וַתְּהִי, נְצִיב מֶלַח.
refers to seeing the city, rather than the wife, become a pillar of salt. What do they do with the Mishna? The answer is that they respectfully disagree with Chazal about the metzius, and so would say that that bracha would never come to be.

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