Now we will spend a few moments thinking about the origins of the names of the city-forts in that verse from Joshua. Each will be identified with a “modern” town, and then the biblical name will be explained based on some paranomasia relating to a characteristic of the location.
Rabbi Yochanan said: When I was a lad, I said something that I had to ask the elders about, it turns out I was right: Chamat is Tiberias; and why was it called Chamat? On account of the hot springs (”chamei”) of Tiberias. Rakkat is Tzippori; and why was it called Rakkat? Because it is raised up like the bank (”rak’ta”) of a river. Kineret is Ginosar; and why was it caled Kineret? Because its fruits are as sweet as the notes of a lyre (”kinor”).
That’s lovely. But didn’t we start off identifying Rakat with Tiberias? Rava said: Who is it who would say that Rakat isn’t Tiberias? Isn’t it the case that, when a person dies here in Babylonia, there in the Land of Israel, they eulogize him thus: Great is he in Babylon, and he has a name in Rakat. (Two other eulogies are also cited by the gemara, but Andrew will interpolate here — I don’t see how any of the three relate to Tiberias per se as opposed to the Land of Israel in general.)
But in any case, Rava agrees with the earlier reading that identifies Rakat with Tiberias, so now he needs to provide alternative correlations for the other cities, since Rabbi Yochanan’s mapping won’t work for Rava. Instead, Rava said: Chamat is the hot springs of Gerar; Rakat is Tiberias; Kineret is Ginosar. And why was Tiberias called Rakat? Because even the empty ones (”rekanin”) who are there areas full of mitzvot as pomegranates are full of seeds.
Rabbi Yirmiyah said: Rakat is its name; but why was it also called Tiberias? Because it is in the navel (”tiburah”) of the Land of Israel.
Rabba said: Rakat is its name; but why was it also called Tiberias? Because it looks good (”tovah r’iyatah”).
Z’era said: Kitron is Tzippori; but why was it also called Tzippori? Because it sits on the head of a mountain like a bird (”tzippor”).
But is Kitron the same as Tzippori? Is it not the case that Kitron is in the allotment of Zevulun when the Land of Israel was apportioned to the twelve tribes? If Tzippori is atop a mountain, and is so good, why was Zevulun unhappy with his portion, as it is said: “Zevulun is a people which shamed its soul to death.” (Judges 5:18)
What was the reason? Because “Naftali was in the heights (in quality, perhaps, not just in altitude) of the fields” and had a better portion. Zevulun said before the Holy One, Who is Blessed: Ruler of the Universe, to my brothers you gave fields and vineyards, but to me you gave mountains and hills. To my brothers you gave lands, but to me you gave seas and creeks. God responds to the tribe of Zevulun. He said to him: All will need you on account of the chilazon, a unique snail whose icher is used to make the techelet, the special blue dye used on the tzitzi fringes. (More prooftexts, which I will elide because it’s getting late.)
So if it occurs to you to think that Kitron is Tzippori, why was Zevulun unhappy with his portion to begin with? Is it not the case that Tzippori is beautifully superior and great? And if you would respond that it does not flow with milk and honey, didn’t Resh Lakish say “I personally have seen the flowing milk and honey of Tzippori, and it was sixteen mil by sixteen mil.” And if you would respond that it’s not as much as his brothers, Rabba bar bar Chanah said that Rabbi Yochanan said: “I personally have seen the flowing milk and honey of the Land of Israel, and it was 22 parsa long and 6 parsa wide.”
1 parsa = 4 mil
22 parsa x 4 mil/parsa = 88 mil 6 parsa x 4 mil/parsa = 24 mil 88 mil x 24 mil = 2112 sq mil = Entire Land of Israel’s flowing area
16 mil x 16 mil = 256 sql mil = Tzipori’s flowing area
256 sq mil / 2112 sq mil = 12% of the total production, which is disprportionatley high. So they couldn’t have complained about that, right?
Even so, he preferred fields and vineyards. And if you look closely at the prooftext above, it is written: “And Naftali was in the heights of the fields….” Learn it from this that Zevulun was envious of Naftali’s fields.
A geopolitical section, discussing Israel and Rome. First a quick note that traditionally the biblical nation of Edom is identified throughout the Talmud with with the Roman empire, which was contemporary with the writing of the Talmud.
Rabbi Abahu said: “Ekron shall be uprooted” (Zephania 2:4) This (Ekron) is Caesaria, the daughter of Edom, which is between the sands on the shores of the Mediterranean. It was a persistent thorn in Israel’s side in the days of the Greeks, and when the Hasmonean kings prevailed and defeated them, they called her “the captured tower of song.”
Skipping a bit…
Rabbi Yitzchak said: “Ekron shall be uprooted”. This is Casearia, the daughter of Edom, which was a metropolin of kings. (Note the use of a recognizable Greek word in the middle of our Aramaic!) There are those who say that kings were raised there, and there are those who say that kings were appointed there.
Now for the geopolitical bit: Caesaria and Jerusalem — if a person says to you that they are both destroyed, do not believe him; that they are both settled, do not believe him; that Caesaria is destroyed and Jerusalem is settled or that Jerusalem is destroyed and Caesaria is settled, believe him. One or the other is always doing well, and the other is doing poorly, as it is said in Ezek. 26:2 “I shall be filled with the one that is destroyed.” — If this one is filled, that one is destroyed; if this other one is filled, that one is destroyed. Another prooftext regarding the idea that either Israel or Rome shall be powerful, but never both together: Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak said it from here: “And one kingdome shall be stronger than the other” (Gen. 25:33) That was from God’s prophetic message to Rebecca regarding Esau (the father of Edom) and Jacob (the father of Israel).
And Rabbi Yitzchak said: Why is it written, “Though favor be shown to the wicked, nevertheless, he has not learned justice; in the land of the upright he will be wicked, and he will not see the majesty of God.” (Is 26:10) Isaac said before the Holy One, Who is Blessed: Ruler of the Universe, show favor to Esau. God replied: He is wicked. Isaac said: has he not learned justice? God replied: “In the land of the upright he will be wicked“ because Edom (i.e., Rome) will destroy Jerusalem; Isaac said: “If so, he will not see the majesty of God“.
And Rabbi Yitzchak said: Why is it written, “Do not give, O Lord, the desires of the wicked; do not remove his nose-ring. Selah.”? (Ps 140:9) Jacob said before the Holy One, Who is Blessed: Ruler of the Universe, Do not give to Esau the wicked the desires of his heart. Do not remove his nose-ring — which refers to Germamia which is today Germany of Edom, who, if they were to go forth, would destroy the entire world completely.
Skipping more about Germamia…
And Rabbi Yitzchak said: If a person says to you “I worked but did not succeed,” do not believe him; “I did not work, yet I succeeded,” do not believe him; “I worked and I succeeded,” believe him. This is said of learning Torah, but in commerce, success depends on heaven. And even Torah stody, it is not said except about sharpening one’s comprehension, but for retaining what one has learned, success depends on heaven. That is, in Torah study, success in learning is correlated with effort, but success in retention is Divinely determined. In commerce, all success is Divinely determined.
Continuing with Rabbi Yitzchak’s teachings…
And Rabbi Yitzchak said: If you see a wicked person, and the hour is smiling upon him, do not strive with him, as it is said: “Do not strive with the wicked.” (Ps. 37:1) And not just that, but he will find success in what he does, as it is said: “Successful are the things his does at every hour.” (Ps. 10:5) And not just that, but he will triumph at legal proceedings, as it is said: “Your laws are far from him.” (continuation of 10:5) – i.e., God’s true justice is distanced from the wicked during these legal proceedings at which the wicked emerge victorious. And not just that, but he will see his enemies fall, as it is said: “all who disturb him, he puffs at them” (the end of Ps. 10:5) – i.e., all he has to do is puff at them and they fall down. Reminds me of a certain Bugs Bunny cartoon. :-)
This teaching of Rabbi Yitchak the gemara will not only cite, but it will question it. Oh yeah? But didn’t Rabbi Yochanan say in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai: it is permitted to strive with the wicked in this world, as it is said: “Those who abandon Torah praise the wicked, but the guardians of Torah strive with them.” (Prov. 28:4)
And there’s a Baraita: Rabbi Dostai bar Matun said: it is permitted to strive with the wicked in this world; and if a person whispers, saying, “Do not strive with the wicked, and do not be zealous with those who do evil.” (Ps. 37:1 – the first prooftext that Rabbi Yitzchak used), then you should ignore that person, because one whose heart smites him with fear of punishment for his own sins says thus and interprets that verse as advocating passivity in the face of evil. Instead: “Do not strive with the wicked” to be more wicked than he. And “do not be jealous of those who do evil” to wish you were more like them. (Yes, “zealous” changed to “jealous” – the Hebrew root has both senses.) And it says in Prov. 23:17 “Do not let your heart be jealous of sinners, etc.”
So Rabbi Yitzchak taught us not to strive against the wicked, and the baraita quite forcefully took the opposite approach. How do we reconcile these positions?
One answer: No problem! This one (R. Yitzchak) in personal matters, this one (the baraita) in heavenly matters.
And if you wish, say a different answer: This and this in personal matters. Both are talking about worldly things, but no problem! This (the baraita) addresses a completely righteous person who may strive with the wicked because he will prevail, and this (R. Yitzchak) addresses a righteous person who is not completely so, and who should avoid striving with the wicked because he will not prevail. As Rav Huna said: Why is it written (Habb. 1:13) “Why stand by when people deal treacherously, and remain silent when the wicked swallow up the one more righteous than they?” From this verse we learn that sometimes the wicked can swallow one more righteous than they, but a completely righteous person he cannot swallow.
And if you wish, say yet another answer: It is different at the hour when fortune is his. Rabbi Yitzchak’s teaching started off “If you see a wicked person, and the hour is smiling upon him….” Perhaps Rabbi Yitzchak was teaching us that when a wicked person is enjoying fortune’s favors, that is not a propitious time to challenge him.
Ulla said: Italia of Greece – this is the great city Roma. It is 300 parsa by 300 parsah in size – a parsa is about 2.5 miles, so that’s about 800 miles on a side. Perhaps Ulla is exaggerating. and there are within it 365 market squares, as the count of days in the solar year. The smallest of all the market squares is the one of poultry sellers, and that one is 16 mil by 16 mil – a mil is about 3/5 of a mile, so that’s a little over 9 miles on a side. Again, perhaps Ulla is exaggerating. And each day the king dines in one of them (one of the market squares).
Ulla continues: And one who resides there, even if he was not born there, receives a stipend from the king’s house; and one who was born there, even if he does not reside htere, receives a stipend from the king’s house.
Ulla continues: And there are 3,000 bathhouses there, and 500 windows bring the smoke up and away from the alls. One side is the sea, one side is mountians and hills, one side is a barrier of iron, and one side is pebbly and swampy.
I think the rabbis were intimidated by the glory that was Rome. Or they were trying to butter up their conquerors. Artscroll cites the Maharsha as saying that they were trying to teach us that if God provides this wonderful of a city to the wicked when it is Rome’s turn to be ascendant, how much greater will the glory of Jerusalem be when it is restored, may it be speedily and in our days.
The third mishna will address what happens if a leap year is declared after the 14th of Adar. The Jewish calendar is a luni-solar calendar, in which months are always 29 or 30 days and stay in sync with the phases of the moon. 12 months of average length 29.5 days works out to 354 days. To also stay in sync with the solar year of 365.25 days (yes, .25, not .24, this was 2,000 years ago) an extra month is inserted 7 times every 19 years. Today this is all done by computations, but when the Sanhedrin set the calendar they would look at whether spring had arrived yet and decide whether the month after Adar should be Nisan, the month in which Passover occurs, or a second Adar.
They had read the megillah in the first Adar, and then the year was extended by the Sanhedrin decreeing a second month of Adar, they read it in the second Adar as well. There is nothing different between the first Adar and the second Adar, except the reading of the megillah and the gifts to the poor. That is, of all the mitzvot of Purim, if one performed them on the appropriate date of Adar I then one need not repeat them on the appropriate date of Adar II, except for those two.
In the matter of the order of special Torah pericopes, this and this (both months of Adar) are equivalent.
Who wrote our mishna? It is not the first teacher of the baraita, nor is it Rabbi Eliezer the son of Rabbi Yose, nor is it Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel. For we have a baraita: They had read the the megillah in the first adar, and then the year was extended, they read it in the second Adar, for all the commandments that are customary in the second Adar are customary in the first, excluding the reading of the Megillah which can only be done in the second Adar. So the first teacher in the Baraita started off identically with our mishna, but the wording at the end is somewhat different and omits any mention of the gifts to the poor.
The baraita continues: Rabbi Eliezer the son of Rabbi Yose says: they do not read it in the second Adar, for all the commandments that are customary in the second Adar are customary in the first.
The third teaching in the baraita: Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says in the name of Rabbi Yose: They even read it in the second Adar, for all the commandments that are customary in the second are not customary in the first.
The baraita concludes: And all agree that eulogizing and fasting are forbidden in this Adar and this Adar. That is, in both months, these things are prohibited on the 14th/15th.
Let’s clarify the baraita: It would appear that Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel is the same as the first teacher. How do their positions differ?
Rav Pappa said: there is the order of the special Torah pericopes differentiating them. (And here you were wondering why the Gemara started with that brief excursis. It was all a setup.) For the first teacher reasons that if it can be arranged thus in advance, the portions should be read starting with the Shabbat preceding the second Adar, but if it was done in the first, it was done and although that’s not preferable, it’s sufficient. But reading the megillah, even if it was read in the first, it is read again in the second.
And Rabbi Eliezer the son of Rabbi Yose reasons, even the reading of megillah should be done, by preference, in the first Adar. as the baraita explicitly stated.
And Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel reasons that even the order of special Torah pericopes, if they were read in the first Adar, they must read them again in the second Adar.
So, to summarize: The first teacher says it’s preferable to move everything to the second Adar, but except for reading megillah it’s ok to have done it in the first. Rabbi Eliezer the son of Rabb Yose says everything is in the first. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says everything is in the second.
Now we are ready to compare our mishna with each of these three positions. The mishna, you’ll recall, said that only megillah reading and the gifts to the poor must be repeated in the second Adar if they had been performed in the first Adar before the year was elongated.
So: Who is it? If it’s the first teacher, there’s a problem about the gifts to the poor, which the mishna mentions but the first teacher did not. If it’s Rabbi Eliezer the son of Rabbi Yose, there’s also a problem about the reading of the megillah. If it’s Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, there’s a problem about the order of pericopes. None of the three positions seems to correspond with the Mishna’s position.
Actually, it’s the first teacher. The basic position matches, and it’s just the matter of the gifts to the poor that poses a potential difficulty. He taught about the reading of the mehgilllah, and that is the law that specifies gifts to the poor, because this one depends on that one. As we learned in the gemara to the first mishna, the date on which one distributes gifts to the poor is the same as the date on which one reads megillah, for various reasons.
Or, if you would rather say a different answer, Actually, it’s Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel who wrote the mishna, but our text of the mishna has dropouts, and this is what it teaches: There is nothing differentiating the 14th of the first Adar from the 14th of the second Adar, except the reading of megillah and gifts to the poor. But in the matter of eulogies and fasting, this the 14th of the first Adar and this the 14th of the second Adar are equivalent. (Andrew here: I’m not clear on how this reconciles the Mishna with the position of Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel. The Mishna still would seem to permit, say, the Purim feast to be held on 14th of Adar I, wouldn’t it, where RShbG wouldn’t?)