Monday, 7 August 2017

Sanhedrin 22: How the Torah is Written; the King's Marriages; Hair Styles of the Rich and Famous

The Gemara ends its discussion about the written Torah.  Why was it written in Ashuris? It is said that the Israelites who were exiled to Ashur brought it with them, where the Torah was given.  When the people sinned, it was forgotten and perhaps the writing then was still Hebrew.  After the people repented, the Torah was returned to Assures.  It could have been called Ashuris because that writing is the most glorious, or like a quote by Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar said, the letters did not change.  The rabbis then wondered about why a king would own two Torahs and how this might relate to language.

A new Mishna teaches that we cannot ride on a king's horse or sit on his throne or use his sceptre or watch his hair being cut or see him naked or in the bathhouse.  This is because we are to fear the king.  Thus we learn that any of these actions could cause the people to lose respect for the king.

The Gemara tells the story of King David's last days, when beautiful Avishag was used to warm him but could not marry him because he had 18 wives already; she was later married to Shlomo.  Is a king permitted to 'use' what another king has already 'used'?  Was King David in fact to old to have intercourse? King David called Bat Sheva who, because there are 13 words in the verse is said to have cleaned herself 13 times in front.  Rashi says that this happened after 13 acts of intercourse. Raman says that she was so desirous of him that she emitted semen from earlier times together.

The rabbis discuss marriage and divorce.  King David was permitted to be alone with Avishag.  Was this because he was weak?  He was not permitted to divorce one of his wives so that so that he could marry Avishag.  Rabbi Yochanan states that a wife dies only if a  man cannot pay what he owes.  He also teaches that if a man's first wife dies, it is like the Temple was destroyed in his lifetime.  Rabbi Alexander says that the world darkens for a man whose wife dies.  Rabbi Yosi bar Chanina says that his step gets shorter.  Rabbi Avahu says that his advice will not be valuable.  Rabba bar bar Chana changes the topic, turning to the difficulty of matchmaking: it is as difficult as splitting the sea.  Rav Yehudah taught about the creation of new people: forty days before a fetus is formed, a Heavenly voice announces a new match.  Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachman teaches that everything has a substitute except for the wife of one's youth.  Rav Yehudah tells us that one feels contented only with his first wife.  

This conversation ends with people speaking of their mothers: Rav Yehuda told his son Rav Yitzchak that his mother is harsh, but she forgives easily.  Rav Shmel bar Onya says that a woman is like an unfilled vessel until her first husband completes her.  He says that when a woman dies, it is as if only her husband is bereaved.

The Gemara discusses when and how kohanim cut their hair.  We are told that a king cuts his hair every day and a priest every month.  All of this is to look distinguished either for the people and/or for the holy Temple.  The Gemara contrasts this with lessons about the 30 days of nazirut.  And the rabbis discuss whether or not priests were permitted to drink at all.  We know that priests were not allowed to serve the Temple while inebriated.  Even now, a priest who is drunk with long hair could nap and cut his hair that then serve the Temple if the Temple were suddenly rebuilt.  

Our daf ends with the explanation of a unique haircut where the end of one hair reaches to the root of the next hair.  The high priest were to cut their hair in the state of Rebbi's son-in-law, Ben El'ashsa.  he cut his hair in rows of curls, where each hair touched the root of the hair approximately one-two inches away.  He did this not to squander his money, says Rebbi, but to remind people of the high priest's haircut.  A note in Steinsalz teaches that Ben El'asha was not as observant as people wanted.  Any time that Rebbi spoke of his son-in-law, it was in defence.

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