BRACHOS 58: UNIQUE INDIVIDUALS
Rav Chaim Friedlander zt”l explains the connection between people’s faces and their middos.
“In Brachos 58, Chazal tell us that although people’s thought processes and countenances are different, Hashem knows what is in each one’s heart. It is not coincidental that both dei’os and faces are mentioned in this context. A person’s middos are discernible from his face to those with understanding. The reason why every person has a different face is because each individual has his own special combination of middos with which he must serve Hashem in a unique manner. His own original blend of middos is what enables him to fulfill his mission in the world. No one can fulfill his fellow’s mission. Each person must think carefully about this. He should know that he has a different task at every moment of the day. This is like what the Nefesh Hachaim teaches regarding one’s tefillos: every tefillah has a special effect on creation that no other can achieve. Similarly, every hour of a person’s life has its own task. In this manner, one will never waste his precious time on frivolity” (Sifsei Chaim, Middos V’Avodas Hashem, Part II, p. 17).
The Kotzker Rebbe zt”l learns a different lesson from this statement, however: “Just like you can bear the fact that people’s outer crust are different – some very different from your own – you must also learn to tolerate their dei’os. Even when other people see things differently than you, you must tolerate them, just like you tolerate them when their physical characteristics differ from your own” (Imrei Shamai, Part I, p. 142).
BRACHOS 59: FOR EVERY DROP, FOR EVERY BREATH
Rav Yeruchum Levovitz zt”l proves the importance of hakoras hatov from a statement on this daf.
“Rashi comments in Bereshis that Hashem did not cause rain to fall, because there was no person yet to work the land and appreciate the rain. It was only when Adam understood the significance of rain and asked for it that Hashem finally made it rain. We see that the entire purpose of Hashem sending bounty is for us to appreciate it. Therefore, even after Hashem sends rain, we must contemplate this kindness deeply and feel as much gratitude as we can.
“This avodah is not some kind of middas chassidus. It is an obligation. This is why we find in the words of Chazal in Brachos 59 that when there was rain, they would make a bracha: ‘We are obligated thousands of thousands and myriad of myriads of blessings to Your Name for every single drop of rain.’ Think about that. For every drop of rain, they offered several million brachos. This is astounding to one who considers it. Only people who are likened to angels like their generation can truly offer such thorough praise.
“In a similar vein, the Medrash teaches that the well-known verse at the very end of Tehillim – ‘Every neshamah will praise Hashem’ – can be understood to mean ‘kol neshimah,’ for each breath, we will praise Hashem (Bereishis Rabbah 14:11).
“We see from here the vastness of human avodah. But even one who cannot do this completely must do what he can. At the very least, each person should work hard on improving his focus on brachos and tefillos. He should make a big deal about these avodos, since through them he builds his hakoras hatov to Hashem for all the good” (Daas Chochmah Umussar, Part III, p. 26).
Brachos 60: Accompanying Angels
On thisdaf we find a nusach that was said to the two angels that escort every Jew before entering the bathroom, a place where they were left behind. The Shulchan Aruch quotes the Avudraham who says that nowadays we don’t say this nusach,since we lack the profound yiras Shomayim necessary to be escorted by angels.
Rav Yaakov Emden zt”l argues with this reasoning, however: “How can one say that every Jew – even a rasha – is not escorted by angels due to his lack of yiras Shomayim? In Taanis 11 we find that two angels escort every Jew to monitor his actions. If he is a rasha, they report his sins. We see that angels even escort reshaim.
“We must explain that the custom is not to say this invocation for a different reason. It must be that one must say this only in the types of bathrooms they had in their times which were in the fields and therefore more dangerous. Our bathrooms are safe, so there is no need to say this before entering.”
The Aruch Hashulchan explains the Shulchan Aruch differently: “The Avudraham and the Shulchan Aruch do not mean that we are not escorted by angels due to our lack of profound yiras Shomayim. They mean that only earlier Chassidim,who were always dovuk to Hashem, perceived these angels. For them it is worthy to speak to these angels. For one who is not on this level, speaking to these angels appears to be mere conceit. But those who learn all the time in holiness and purity should indeed say this nusach (Aruch Hashulchan, siman 3).
When one rosh yeshiva would quote bring this Gemara, he would accentuate that most are not on the level by putting his arms around two imaginary entities to his left and his right. Everyone laughed, demonstrating that we are simply not on the level to say this exalted invocation.
BRACHOS 61: FOLLOWING THE FLIES
Chazal tell us that the yeitzer hara is compared to a fly. There are several excellent explanations of this apparently strange appellation.
The Kedushas Tzion of Bobov zt”l explained this beautifully: “If a person is in his right mind and notices a fly approaching him, he will immediately send it away. Only a fool will wait for the fly to bite before removing it. This is how one should view the yeitzer hara. He should be wise and see where things are leading, to know when to work to overcome the yeitzer; not after he falls, but from when it begins to entice him to overindulge in material pleasures, even those that are permitted. He should not wait until the yeitzer causes him to stumble into that which is forbidden” (Kedushas Tzion, Moadim, p. 145).
Rav Nota Freund elucidated this explanation with a parable: “Even though the entire world enthusiastically pursues material pleasures, we should not do so. This can be compared to a big garbage receptacle where everyone dumps their revolting refuse. Myriads of flies congregate there and, when the garbage truck takes out the trash, they follow it in droves. Would any human act so, just because many flies act in this disgusting manner? Obviously, a person of intelligence will not rush after something just because the multitudes do so. He will be circumspect, carefully selecting what is proper to chase and what is not.
“This explains why our sages compare the yeitzer hara to a fly. Like the example of flies which chase after repulsive trash must not be emulated, one must also be careful not to chase after the darkness of materialism. Just because the multitudes do this doesn’t mean we should act in the same way!” (Chayei Olam Nota, p. 138).
BRACHOS 62: “FOR THEY ARE OUR LIFE”
The Sefas Emes of Gur zt”l would always encourage his children and chassidim to use every moment available for learning Torah – “for they are our life.” He would say, “One must learn at all times every day of his life. Summer and winter, hot or cold, one must learn until his last breath on earth.
“At times, one exempts himself from learning due to a heat wave. He figures that it is hard enough to bear the oppressive heat; learning in such weather must be nearly impossible. But our sages adjure us to be like an ox that bears a yoke and a donkey its load. Why a donkey? Because we find that a donkey is cold even in the heat of Tammuz.
“This is the meaning of the Mishnah in Avos that exhorts us to make the ground our sleeping place. Don’t our sages tell us in Brachos 62 that one should sleep anywhere besides the ground? The answer is that the Tanna in Avos is explaining the vast importance of learning Torah no matter what one’s physical conditions are. Even if one is only able to sleep on the ground, he should not be mevatel Torah because of his sleeping conditions” (Marbitzei Torah Mei’olam Hachassidus, Part II, p. 105).
BRACHOS 63: WORTHY OF TORAH
On thisdaf we find that the Torah is only truly absorbed by a person who kills himself over it. The obvious question is what this means.
The Bais Yisroel of Gur zt”l explains, “Torah can be absorbed only by one who has purified himself. ‘Kills himself’ means killing off the illicit thoughts that are so much a part of his physical self. The more one purifies his thoughts, the more he will retain his learning” (Bais Yisroel, Parshas Chukas).
The Vayaged Yaakov of Pupa zt”l explained differently: “Many times, talmidei chachomim get up in the middle of the night to learn. This is often beyond their ability to sustain, so they fall asleep over their Gemaros. This is the meaning of the famous statement found on Brachos 63. The Torah is sustained in one who kills himself over it. That is one who works so hard that he falls asleep over the Gemara. Since sleep is one sixtieth of death, this is considered like one who killed himself to learn” (Agurah Be’ohalecha Olamim, p. 149).
BRACHOS 64: INCREASING PEACE
There are those who attribute a strong bit of mussar on one of the final statements of our masechta to Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz zt”l: “Why do talmidei chachomim increase peace? We see many times that when a talmid chochom comes to a city filled with amei ha’aretz,the baalei batim can’t stand him. Although they had their own fights and disputes before, they will unite against the talmid chochom. Similar to Moav and Midyan, who made peace to unite against their common enemy, these ignoramuses forgo all quarreling to fight the talmidei chachomim in their midst” (Amirah Yafah, p. 591).
On a more positive note, however, Rav Shaul Alter, rosh yeshiva of YeshivasSefasEmes, explained the profound implications of the same ma’amar in a moving talk about the importance of learning halacha in general and Even Ha’ezer and Choshen Mishpat in particular. While people generally do make the time to learn and review the halachos in Orach Chaim and even parts of Yoreh De’ah, the more intricate laws of marriage and civil disputes are often left at the wayside, until a question arises.
“We find in the holy works that if a rov wants to ensure he will not be swamped with many hard questions on hilchos Pesach, he should learn them thoroughly in advance of the chag. This is a segulah that difficult questions will not arise in his community. If the rov doesn’t learn these complex halachos,however, they haunt him in the form of very difficult questions that force him to look them up to render a competent ruling.
“We can say the same to explain why ‘talmidei chachomim marbim shalom ba’olam,’ as we find at the end of Brachos. In what way do Torah scholars generate peace? The answer is that they learn Even Ha’ezer and Choshen Mishpat. In this manner, people get along, since there is no need for the rov to be confronted with complex questions in dinei mamonos and shalom bayis, since he has already learned the halachos. Such talmidei chachomim cause the world to be a more peaceful place” (Betzila Demehemnusah, Tzav 1997, p. 2).
Hadron aloch Haro’eh uselikah loh Maseches Brachos.