Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tuesday's Thoughts on the Daf - Bava Basra 74

Bava Basra 74 continues the stream of aggadita stories which began on Bava Basra 73. I would like to summarize of a few stories, and offer some thoughts and questions about them.

One of the stories recited in the gemara involves an individual who asked Rabba Bar Bar Chana if he wanted to see Har Sinai. He took Rabba Bar Bar Chana to the site where he observed that it was surrounded by scorpions which were as large as white donkeys. He also heard a bas kol which stated "Woe to me that I promised and now that I promised, who will revoke my vow for me?"

The Rashbam states that the vow referred to above was Hashem's vow to exile the Jews from the land of Israel. This was not Rabba Bar Bar Chana's understanding.

When Rabba Bar Bar Chana returned and told the story to the Rabbis they called him a fool since he should have said I revoked the vow. He replied that he was concerned that the vow was that Hashem had promised never to destroy the entire world by flood and he did not want to revoke this vow for Hashem. The Rabbis pointed out the flaw in this reasoning as if this case, Hashem would not have used the word "Woe" as it would be a good thing that the vow was made that the world would not be destroyed.

Tosafos asks the obvious question - why can't Hashem be mefer his neder and brings a proof from a gemara in Chaggiga 10(a) that Hashem can be mefer the promises made in anger. Tosafos does not offer an answer and I neither can I.

Another interesting story told on Bava Basra 74b involves a precious stone which was observed in the sea by R' Yehuda Hindua. The stone was being guarded by a sea serpent. They sent down a diver to try to get the stone and the serpent attempted to swallow the boat. Before it could strike, a large raven came and bit off its head. Then another serpent came and took the stone and put it on the dead serpent and it was revived. The (formerly dead) serpent then attempted to swallow the ship and again the bird intervened. This time the diver grabbed the stone and threw it in the boat. The stone landed on a pile of salted poultry which then came back to life and flew away with the stone.

Explanation? Not a clue. But I thought the story was cool so I repeated it in the post.

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