Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Tuesday's Thoughts On The Daf - Nedarim 74

There is a story told about the late R' Yaakov Kaminetzky (o"h). He was once traveling on an airplane with his grandson. He was seated on the flight next to an individual who had quite different views on religion.

During the flight, R' Yaakov's grandson would periodically check to see if his grandfather needed anything. The other individual asked R' Yaakov why his grandson treated him this way and lamented his own family's lack of respect. R' Yaakov responded that the difference lay in their approach to history - we believe that each generation is one step further away from perfection (the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai). You on the other hand believe that each generation is one step further away from being monkeys.

At times the value system of prior generations is revealed to us, as in Nedarim 74b. During a discussion on a particular topic, R' Akiva presents a sharp answer to R' Yehoshua. Ben Azai (who was no slouch) observed the discussion and commented - woe onto you Ben Azai that you did not study under R' Akiva.

The above conversation is striking in its inclusion on the page of the daf. During the previous two amuddim there was no side comment or conversation - the sole focus was on the debate over whether a yavam can annul the vows of a shomeres yavam. Following this comment, the gemara returns to its discussion of the topic. Only this brief statement of Ben Azai, (who has no speaking role in the rest of the daf) is mentioned by the compilers of the Talmud. Why was this statment included? Perhaps just to give us a little understanding of how important Torah study was to the people of that generation and to give us a glimpse of how far we have moved away from perfection.

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