Berakhot 32a:17ברכות ל״ב א
The William Davidson Talmudתלמוד מהדורת ויליאם דוידסון
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32aל״ב א

דכתיב ואשר הרעתי:

As it is written in a future prophecy: “In that day, says the Lord, I will assemble the lame, and I will gather those who are abandoned and those with whom I have dealt in wickedness” (Micah 4:6). God states that He caused Israel to act wickedly.

אמר רבי חמא ברבי חנינא אלמלא שלש מקראות הללו נתמוטטו רגליהם של שונאי ישראל

Similarly, Rabbi Ḥama, son of Rabbi Ḥanina, said: Had it not been for these three verses, the legs of the enemies of Israel, a euphemism for Israel itself, would have collapsed, as Israel would have been unable to withstand God’s judgment.

חד דכתיב ואשר הרעתי וחד דכתיב הנה כחמר ביד היוצר כן אתם בידי בית ישראל וחד דכתיב והסרתי את לב האבן מבשרכם ונתתי לכם לב בשר

One is the verse just mentioned in which it is written: “Those whom I have dealt in wickedness.” And one is the verse in which it is written: “Behold, like clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, house of Israel” (Jeremiah 18:6). And one is the verse in which it is written: “And I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will place within you, and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and I will give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). These three verses indicate that God influences a person’s decisions, and therefore one does not have sole responsibility for his actions.

רב פפא אמר מהכא ואת רוחי אתן בקרבכם ועשיתי את אשר בחקי תלכו

Rav Pappa said there is a clearer proof from here: “And I will place My spirit within you and I will cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will observe My decrees and do them” (Ezekiel 36:27).

ואמר רבי אלעזר משה הטיח דברים כלפי מעלה שנאמר ויתפלל משה אל ה׳ אל תקרי אל ה׳ אלא על ה׳

And Rabbi Elazar said: Moses also spoke impertinently toward God on High, as it is stated in the verse following the sin of those who murmured against God in the desert: “And Moses prayed to the Lord and the fire subsided” (Numbers 11:2), and this verse is interpreted homiletically: Do not read to [el] the Lord, but rather onto [al] the Lord, which indicates that he spoke impertinently.

שכן דבי רבי אליעזר בן יעקב קורין לאלפין עיינין ולעיינין אלפין

The Gemara explains the basis for this interpretation: As the Sages of the school of Rabbi Eliezer ben Ya’akov would indiscriminately read alef as ayin and ayin as alef and in this case transforming el into al.

דבי רבי ינאי אמרי מהכא ודי זהב

The Sages of the school of Rabbi Yannai, however, say proof that Moses spoke impertinently toward God on High is derived from here, Moses’ rebuke at the beginning of Deuteronomy: “And Di Zahav” (Deuteronomy 1:1). This is an entry in a list of places where Moses had spoken to Israel. As there was no place encountered by that name, it is interpreted as an allusion to another matter.

מאי ודי זהב אמרי דבי רבי ינאי כך אמר משה לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא רבונו של עולם בשביל כסף וזהב שהשפעת להם לישראל עד שאמרו די הוא גרם שעשו את העגל

We must clarify: What is the meaning of and Di Zahav? The Sages of the school of Rabbi Yannai said that Moses said the following before the Holy One, Blessed be He, to atone for Israel after the sin of the Golden Calf: Master of the Universe, because of the gold and silver that you lavished upon Israel during the exodus from Egypt until they said enough [dai]; it was this wealth that caused Israel to make the Golden Calf.

אמרי דבי רבי ינאי אין ארי נוהם מתוך קופה של תבן אלא מתוך קופה של בשר

Establishing a general moral principle, the Sages the school of Rabbi Yannai said: A lion does not roar standing over a basket of straw from which he derives no pleasure, but he roars standing over a basket of meat, as he only roars when satiated.

אמר רבי אושעיא משל לאדם שהיתה לו פרה כחושה ובעלת אברים האכילה כרשינין והיתה מבעטת בו אמר לה מי גרם ליך שתהא מבעטת בי אלא כרשינין שהאכלתיך

Similarly, Rabbi Oshaya said: This is comparable to a person who had a lean, but large-limbed cow. At one point, he fed it lupines, a choice food, and soon thereafter the cow was kicking him. He said to the cow: Who caused you to begin kicking me if not the lupines I fed you? Here, too, the sin was caused by an abundance of good.

אמר רבי חייא בר אבא אמר רבי יוחנן משל לאדם אחד שהיה לו בן הרחיצו וסכו והאכילו והשקהו ותלה לו כיס על צוארו והושיבו על פתח של זונות מה יעשה אותו הבן שלא יחטא

The Gemara offers another analogy: Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: This is comparable to a person who had a son; he bathed him and anointed him with oil, fed him and gave him drink, and hung a purse of money around his neck. Then, he brought his son to the entrance of a brothel. What could the son do to avoid sinning?

אמר רב אחא בריה דרב הונא אמר רב ששת היינו דאמרי אינשי מלי כרסיה זני בישי שנאמר כמרעיתם וישבעו שבעו וירם לבם על כן שכחוני רב נחמן אמר מהכא ורם לבבך ושכחת את ה׳ ורבנן אמרי מהכא ואכל ושבע ודשן ופנה

On a similar note, Rav Aḥa, son of Rav Huna, said that Rav Sheshet said: That is what people say in a popular maxim: Filling his stomach is a type of sin, as it is stated: “When they were fed and became full they were sated, and their hearts were lifted and they have forgotten Me” (Hosea 13:6). Rav Naḥman said: This principle is derived not from the verse in Hosea, but from here: “And your heart is lifted and you forget the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:14). And the Rabbis say that this principle is derived from here: “And they will have eaten and been sated and fattened, and they will turn to other gods” (Deuteronomy 31:20).

ואי בעית אימא מהכא וישמן ישורון ויבעט אמר רבי שמואל בר נחמני אמר רבי יונתן מנין שחזר הקדוש ברוך הוא והודה לו למשה שנאמר וכסף הרביתי להם וזהב עשו לבעל:

And if you wish, say instead that it is derived from here: “And Jeshurun grew fat and kicked” (Deuteronomy 32:15). Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani said that Rabbi Yonatan said: From where in the Torah is it derived that the Holy One, Blessed be He, ultimately conceded to Moses that the reason for the sin of the Golden Calf was indeed the riches lavished upon Israel? As it is stated: “And I gave them an abundance of silver and gold, which they used for the Ba’al” (Hosea 2:10).

וידבר ה׳ אל משה לך רד מאי לך רד אמר רבי אלעזר אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא למשה משה רד מגדולתך כלום נתתי לך גדולה אלא בשביל ישראל ועכשיו ישראל חטאו אתה למה לי מיד תשש כוחו של משה ולא היה לו כח לדבר וכיון שאמר הרף ממני ואשמידם אמר משה דבר זה תלוי בי מיד עמד ונתחזק בתפלה ובקש רחמים

The Gemara elaborates upon additional aspects of the sin of the Golden Calf. It is stated: “And the Lord said to Moses: Go and descend, for your people whom you have lifted out of the land of Egypt have been corrupted” (Exodus 32:7). What is the meaning of “go and descend”? Rabbi Elazar said: The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Moses: Moses, descend from your greatness. Isn’t it only for the sake of Israel, so that you may serve as an emissary, that I granted you prominence; and now that Israel has sinned, why do I need you? There is no need for an emissary. Immediately, Moses’ strength waned and he was powerless to speak in defense of Israel. And once God said to Moses: “Leave Me be, that I may destroy them” (Deuteronomy 9:14), Moses said to himself: If God is telling me to let Him be, it must be because this matter is dependent upon me. Immediately Moses stood and was strengthened in prayer, and asked that God have mercy on the nation of Israel and forgive them for their transgression.

משל למלך שכעס על בנו והיה מכהו מכה גדולה והיה אוהבו יושב לפניו ומתירא לומר לו דבר אמר המלך אלמלא אוהבי זה שיושב לפני הרגתיך אמר דבר זה תלוי בי מיד עמד והצילו:

The Gemara says: This is comparable to a king who became angry at his son who had sinned against him, and beat him, administering a severe beating. At that moment, a well-wisher of the king was sitting before him and witnessed the entire event, and was afraid to say anything to the king about the excessive beating. Meanwhile, the king said to his son: Were it not for this well-wisher of mine who is sitting before me, I would have killed you. Upon hearing this, the king’s friend said to himself: This is clearly a sign that this matter, rescuing the son from the hands of his father, is dependent upon me. Immediately he stood and rescued him from the king.

ועתה הניחה לי ויחר אפי בהם ואכלם ואעשה אותך לגוי גדול וגו׳ אמר רבי אבהו אלמלא מקרא כתוב אי אפשר לאומרו מלמד שתפסו משה להקדוש ברוך הוא כאדם שהוא תופס את חבירו בבגדו ואמר לפניו רבונו של עולם אין אני מניחך עד שתמחול ותסלח להם:

In an additional aspect of the sin of the Golden Calf, God told Moses: “Now leave Me be, that My wrath will be enraged against them and I will consume them; and I will make of you a great nation” (Exodus 32:10). Explaining this verse, Rabbi Abbahu said: Were the verse not written in this manner, it would be impossible to utter it, in deference to God. The phrase: Leave Me be, teaches that Moses grabbed the Holy One, Blessed be He, as a person who grabs his friend by his garment would, and he said before Him: Master of the Universe, I will not leave You be until You forgive and pardon them.

ואעשה אותך לגוי גדול וגו׳ אמר רבי אלעזר אמר משה לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא רבונו של עולם ומה כסא של שלש רגלים אינו יכול לעמוד לפניך בשעת כעסך כסא של רגל אחד על אחת כמה וכמה

In the same verse, God promised Moses: “And I will make of you a great nation.” What was Moses’ response? Rabbi Elazar said: Moses said before the Holy One, Blessed be He: Master of the Universe, if a chair with three legs, the collective merit of the three forefathers, is unable to stand before You in Your moment of wrath, all the more so that a chair with one leg, my merit alone, will be unable to withstand your wrath.

ולא עוד אלא שיש בי בושת פנים מאבותי עכשיו יאמרו ראו פרנס שהעמיד עליהם בקש גדולה לעצמו ולא בקש עליהם רחמים:

Moreover, but I have a sense of shame before my forefathers. Now they will say: See this leader that God placed over Israel. He requested greatness for himself but did not pray for God to have mercy upon them in their troubled time.

ויחל משה את פני ה׳ אמר רבי אלעזר מלמד שעמד משה בתפלה לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא עד שהחלהו ורבא אמר עד שהפר לו נדרו כתיב הכא ויחל וכתיב התם לא יחל דברו ואמר מר הוא אינו מיחל אבל אחרים מחלין לו

The Torah continues: “And Moses beseeched [vayḥal] before the Lord” (Exodus 32:11). Many interpretations were given for this uncommon term, vayḥal: Rabbi Elazar said: It teaches that Moses stood in prayer before the Holy One, Blessed be He, until it made him ill [heḥelahu] from overexertion. And Rava said: Moses stood in prayer until he nullified His vow, as the term vayḥal alludes to nullification of an oath. Here it is written vayḥal, and there referring to vows, it is written: “He shall not nullify [lo yaḥel] his word” (Numbers 30:3). And with regard to vows, the Master said: He who vowed cannot nullify his vow, but others, the court, can nullify his vow for him. Here, it is as if Moses nullified the Lord’s vow to destroy Israel.

ושמואל אמר מלמד שמסר עצמו למיתה עליהם שנאמר ואם אין מחני נא מספרך

And Shmuel said: The term vayḥal teaches that Moses gave his life, from the term ḥalal, a dead person, for Israel, as it is stated: “And if not, erase me, please, from Your book” (Exodus 32:32).

אמר רבא אמר רב יצחק מלמד שהחלה עליהם מדת רחמים

Rava, also interpreting this verse, said that Rav Yitzḥak said: The term vayḥal teaches that he caused the Divine Attribute of Mercy to take effect [heḥela] upon them.

ורבנן אמרי מלמד שאמר משה לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא רבונו של עולם חולין הוא לך מעשות כדבר הזה

And the Rabbis say that this term constitutes the essence of Moses’ claim: It teaches that Moses said before the Holy One Blessed be He: It is a sacrilege [ḥullin] for You to do something like this.

ויחל משה את פני ה׳ תניא רבי אליעזר הגדול אומר מלמד שעמד משה בתפלה לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא עד שאחזתו אחילו מאי אחילו אמר רבי אלעזר אש של עצמות מאי אש של עצמות אמר אביי אשתא דגרמי

And another interpretation of the verse, “And Moses beseeched [vayḥal] before the Lord.” It was taught in a baraita: Rabbi Eliezer the Great says: This term teaches that Moses stood in prayer until he was overcome by aḥilu. Even the Sages were unfamiliar with this term. Therefore, the Gemara asks: What is the meaning of aḥilu? Rabbi Elazar, an amora of Eretz Yisrael, said that aḥilu is fire in the bones. However, this expression was familiar in Eretz Yisrael but not in Babylonia. They asked in Babylonia: What is the disease that they called fire of the bones? Abaye said that is a disease known in Babylonia as eshta degarmei, which in Aramaic means fire of the bones; in other words, a fever.

זכר לאברהם ליצחק ולישראל עבדיך אשר נשבעת להם בך מאי בך אמר רבי אלעזר אמר משה לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא רבונו של עולם אלמלא נשבעת להם בשמים ובארץ הייתי אומר כשם ששמים וארץ בטלים כך שבועתך בטלה ועכשו שנשבעת להם בשמך הגדול מה שמך הגדול חי וקיים לעולם ולעולמי עולמים כך שבועתך קיימת לעולם ולעולמי עולמים:

As Moses continues his prayer, he says: “Remember Abraham, Isaac and Israel Your servants, to whom You swore in Your name” (Exodus 32:13). What is the meaning of in Your name? Rabbi Elazar said: Moses said before the Holy One, Blessed be He: Master of the Universe, had You sworn to them by the heavens and the earth, I would say: Just as the heavens and the earth will ultimately be no more, so too Your oath will be null and void. Now that You swore to them by Your great name, just as Your name lives and stands for all eternity, so too does Your oath live and stand for all eternity.

ותדבר אליהם ארבה את זרעכם ככוכבי השמים וכל הארץ הזאת אשר אמרתי האי אשר אמרתי אשר אמרת מיבעי ליה

In this verse, Moses continues: “And You said to them: I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your offspring that they shall inherit it forever.” The Gemara clarifies a puzzling phrase in this verse. That phrase of which I have spoken, it should have said: Of which You have spoken, as Moses is referring to God’s promise to the forefathers.

אמר רבי אלעזר עד כאן דברי תלמיד מכאן ואילך דברי הרב ורבי שמואל בר נחמני אמר אלו ואלו דברי תלמיד אלא כך אמר משה לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא רבונו של עולם דברים שאמרת לי לך אמור להם לישראל בשמי הלכתי ואמרתי להם בשמך עכשו מה אני אומר להם:

Rabbi Elazar said: To this point, the verse cites the words of the student, Moses; from this point, and all this land of which I have spoken, the verse cites the words of the Master, God. And Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani said: These and those are the words of the student; Moses spoke the entire verse. Rather, Moses said before the Holy One, Blessed be He: Master of the Universe, those matters which You told me to go and say to Israel in My name, I went and told it to them in Your name. I have already told Israel of God’s promise to the forefathers. Now what do I say to them?

מבלתי יכלת ה׳ יכול ה׳ מיבעי ליה

The Gemara moves to a discussion of additional prayers offered by Moses. Moses said that if God fails to bring the Jewish people into Eretz Yisrael, the nations of the world will say: “The Lord did not have the ability [yekholet] to bring this people into the land which He swore to them, and He killed them in the desert” (Numbers 14:16). The Gemara examines this verse closely: The verse should not have utilized the term yekholet, an abstract feminine noun, but rather, it should have said: “The Lord was not able [yakhol],” a masculine verb.

אמר רבי אלעזר אמר משה לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא רבונו של עולם עכשיו יאמרו אומות העולם תשש כחו כנקבה ואינו יכול להציל אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא למשה והלא כבר ראו נסים וגבורות שעשיתי להם על הים אמר לפניו רבונו של עולם עדיין יש להם לומר למלך אחד יכול לעמוד לשלשים ואחד מלכים אינו יכול לעמוד

Rabbi Elazar said: Moses phrased it that way because he said before the Holy One, Blessed be He: Master of the Universe, now the nations of the world will say that His strength weakened like a female and He is unable to rescue the nation of Israel. The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Moses: And did the nations of the world not already see the miracles and the mighty acts that I performed on behalf of Israel at the Red Sea? Moses said before Him: Master of the Universe, they can still say: The Lord can stand up to a single king like Pharaoh and defeat him, but He is unable to stand up to the thirty-one kings in the land of Canaan.

אמר רבי יוחנן מנין שחזר הקדוש ברוך הוא והודה לו למשה שנאמר ויאמר ה׳ סלחתי כדבריך תני דבי רבי ישמעאל כדבריך עתידים אומות העולם לומר כן

Rabbi Yoḥanan said: From where is it derived that the Holy One, Blessed be He, ultimately conceded to Moses? As it is said: “And the Lord said: I have forgiven according to your word” (Numbers 14:20). The Sages of the school of Rabbi Yishmael taught: According to your word, it will be, as indeed in the future the nations of the world will say this.

אשרי תלמיד שרבו מודה לו

The Gemara concludes: Happy is the student whose teacher concedes to him as the Lord conceded to Moses.

ואולם חי אני אמר רבא אמר רב יצחק מלמד שאמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא למשה משה החייתני בדבריך:

Explaining the next verse, “Nevertheless, as I live, and the glory of the Lord fills the entire world” (Numbers 14:21), Rava said that Rav Yitzḥak said: This teaches that the Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Moses: Moses, you have given Me life with your words. I am happy that on account of your arguments, I will forgive Israel.

דרש רבי שמלאי לעולם יסדר אדם שבחו של הקדוש ברוך הוא ואחר כך יתפלל מנלן ממשה דכתיב ואתחנן אל ה׳ בעת ההיא וכתיב ה׳ אלהים אתה החלת להראות את עבדך את גדלך ואת ידך החזקה אשר מי אל בשמים ובארץ אשר יעשה כמעשיך וכגבורותיך וכתיב בתריה אעברה נא ואראה את הארץ הטובה וגו׳:

Based on Moses’ prayers, Rabbi Simlai taught: One should always set forth praise of the Holy One, Blessed be He, and then pray for his own needs. From where do we derive that one should conduct himself in this manner? From Moses, as it is written in his prayer: “And I beseeched the Lord at that time” (Deuteronomy 3:23). And immediately afterward in his prayer, it is written: “Lord, God, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand, for what God is there in the heavens or on earth who can perform deeds such as Yours and Your might” (Deuteronomy 3:24)? Here, Moses began with praise of God, and it is only thereafter that it is written: “Please, let me pass over and see the good land that is beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and the Lebanon” (Deuteronomy 3:25). Only after his praise did Moses make his personal request.

סימן מעשים צדקה קרבן כהן תענית מנעל ברזל:

The Gemara prefaces the next discourse with a mnemonic symbol: Deeds, charity, offering, priest, fast, shoe, iron.