(דברי הימים א יז, כא) ומי כעמך ישראל גוי אחד בארץ
“And who is like Your people, Israel, one nation in the land?” (I Chronicles 17:21).
ואף הוא פתח ודרש (קהלת יב, יא) דברי חכמים כדרבונות וכמסמרות נטועים בעלי אסופות נתנו מרועה אחד למה נמשלו דברי תורה לדרבן לומר לך מה דרבן זה מכוין את הפרה לתלמיה להוציא חיים לעולם אף דברי תורה מכוונין את לומדיהן מדרכי מיתה לדרכי חיים אי מה דרבן זה מטלטל אף דברי תורה מטלטלין ת"ל מסמרות
The Gemara adds: And Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya also commenced his lecture and taught: It is written: “The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails well fastened are those that are composed in collections; they are given from one shepherd” (Ecclesiastes 12:11). Why are matters of Torah compared to a goad? To tell you that just as this goad directs the cow to her furrow to bring forth sustenance for life to the world, so too the words of Torah direct those who study them from the paths of death to the paths of life. The Gemara asks: If so, derive the following from that same analogy: Just as this goad is movable and not rigid, so too matters of Torah are movable in accordance with circumstance and are not permanent. Therefore, the verse states: “Nails,” which are permanent.
אי מה מסמר זה חסר ולא יתר אף דברי תורה חסירין ולא יתירין ת"ל נטועים מה נטיעה זו פרה ורבה אף דברי תורה פרין ורבין בעלי אסופות אלו תלמידי חכמים שיושבין אסופות אסופות ועוסקין בתורה הללו מטמאין והללו מטהרין הללו אוסרין והללו מתירין הללו פוסלין והללו מכשירין
The Gemara further asks: If so, one can explain as follows: Just as this nail is diminished in size and does not expand, as it wastes away over time, so too matters of Torah are gradually diminished and do not expand. Therefore, the verse states: “Well fastened [netuim].” Just as this plant [neti’a] flourishes and multiplies, so too matters of Torah flourish and multiply. “Those that are composed in collections [ba’alei asufot]”: These are Torah scholars who sit in many groups [asupot] and engage in Torah study. There are often debates among these groups, as some of these Sages render an object or person ritually impure and these render it pure; these prohibit an action and these permit it; these deem an item invalid and these deem it valid.
שמא יאמר אדם היאך אני למד תורה מעתה תלמוד לומר כולם נתנו מרועה אחד אל אחד נתנן פרנס אחד אמרן מפי אדון כל המעשים ברוך הוא דכתיב (שמות כ, א) וידבר אלהים את כל הדברים האלה
Lest a person say: Now, how can I study Torah when it contains so many different opinions? The verse states that they are all “given from one shepherd.” One God gave them; one leader, i.e., Moses, said them from the mouth of the Master of all creation, Blessed be He, as it is written: “And God spoke all these words” (Exodus 20:1). The plural form “words” indicates that God transmitted all the interpretations of the Ten Commandments. Since the Sages invariably utilize the Torah itself or the statements of the prophets as the sources for their opinions, there is a certain unity to the study of Torah, despite the numerous explanations and applications.
אף אתה עשה אזניך כאפרכסת וקנה לך לב מבין לשמוע את דברי מטמאים ואת דברי מטהרים את דברי אוסרין ואת דברי מתירין את דברי פוסלין ואת דברי מכשירין בלשון הזה אמר להם אין דור יתום שר' אלעזר בן עזריה שרוי בתוכו
So too you, the student, make your ears like a funnel and acquire for yourself an understanding heart to hear both the statements of those who render objects ritually impure and the statements of those who render them pure; the statements of those who prohibit actions and the statements of those who permit them; the statements of those who deem items invalid and the statements of those who deem them valid. When Rabbi Yehoshua heard these interpretations, he said to them in these words: No generation is considered orphaned, i.e. without a leader, if Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya dwells among it.
ולימרו ליה בהדיא משום מעשה שהיה דתניא מעשה בר' יוסי בן דורמסקית שהלך להקביל פני ר' אלעזר בלוד אמר לו מה חידוש היה בבהמ"ד היום
The Gemara asks: But Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Beroka and Rabbi Elazar ben Ḥisma should have told Rabbi Yehoshua these statements of Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya directly, without delay. Why did they hesitate at first? The Gemara answers: They were hesitant due to an incident that occurred. As it is taught in a baraita: There was an incident involving Rabbi Yosei ben Durmaskit, who went to greet Rabbi Eliezer in Lod. Rabbi Elazar said to him: What novel idea was taught today in the study hall?
א"ל נמנו וגמרו עמון ומואב מעשרין מעשר עני בשביעית
Rabbi Yosei ben Durmaskit said to him: The Sages assembled, counted the votes, and concluded that although the lands of Ammon and Moab on the eastern side of the Jordan River are not part of Eretz Yisrael, and therefore the halakhot of the Sabbatical Year and tithes should not apply to them, as these lands are adjacent to Eretz Yisrael, one separates the poor man’s tithe there in the Sabbatical Year. Since the Sages debated which tithes should be separated, they had to take a vote to determine the halakha in this regard.
אמר לו יוסי פשוט ידיך וקבל עיניך פשט ידיו וקבל עיניו בכה ר' אלעזר ואמר (תהלים כה, יד) סוד ה' ליראיו ובריתו להודיעם
Rabbi Elazar said to him in anger: Yosei, extend your hands and catch your eyes, which are about to come out of their sockets. He extended his hands and caught his eyes. Rabbi Elazar wept and said the verse: “The counsel of the Lord is with them who fear Him; and His covenant, to make them know it” (Psalms 25:14), i.e., the Sages arrived at the correct conclusion, although they were unaware of the proper rationale behind it.
אמר לו לך אמור להם אל תחושו למניינכם כך מקובלני מרבן יוחנן בן זכאי ששמע מרבו ורבו מרבו הלכתא למשה מסיני עמון ומואב מעשרין מעשר עני בשביעית מה טעם הרבה כרכים כבשו עולי מצרים ולא כבשום עולי בבל
Rabbi Elazar said to Rabbi Yosei to go and say to the Sages in the study hall: Do not be concerned with regard to your counting, that you might not have ruled properly, as you have not in fact instituted a new ordinance at all. This is the tradition that I received from Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai, who heard from his teacher, and his teacher from his teacher: It is a halakha transmitted to Moses from Sinai that in Ammon and Moab one separates the poor man’s tithe in the Sabbatical Year. What is the reason? Those who ascended from Egypt conquered many cities, and those who ascended from Babylonia did not conquer them after the destruction of the First Temple.
מפני שקדושה ראשונה קדשה לשעתה ולא קדשה לעתיד לבא והניחום כדי שיסמכו עליהן עניים בשביעית
This difference is important, because the first consecration of Eretz Yisrael, by those who ascended from Egypt, caused it to be sanctified only for its time and it was not sanctified forever, as that depended on the renewed conquest of the land by the Jewish people. And those who ascended from Babylonia left those cities aside and did not consider them part of Eretz Yisrael even after Jewish settlement was renewed there. They would plow and harvest in these places in the Sabbatical Year and tithe the poor man’s tithe, so that the poor of Eretz Yisrael, who did not have sufficient income from the previous years, could rely upon that produce in the Sabbatical Year, receiving help from this tithe.
תנא לאחר שנתיישבה דעתו אמר יהי רצון שיחזרו עיני יוסי למקומן וחזרו
It was taught that after Rabbi Elazar’s mind was put at ease, he said: May it be God’s will that Rabbi Yosei’s eyes should return to their place. And indeed his eyes returned. Due to this event, in which Rabbi Elazar responded harshly when his disciple related what he considered a novel idea, the students of Rabbi Yehoshua hesitated to recount what they had heard until their teacher encouraged them to do so.
ת"ר איזהו שוטה היוצא יחידי בלילה והלן בבית הקברות והמקרע את כסותו איתמר רב הונא אמר עד שיהו כולן בבת אחת ר' יוחנן אמר אפי' באחת מהן
§ The Sages taught: Who is considered an imbecile? One who goes out alone at night, and one who sleeps in a cemetery, and one who rends his garment. It was stated that Rav Huna said: One does not have the halakhic status of an imbecile until there are all of these signs present in him at the same time. Rabbi Yoḥanan said: He is considered an imbecile even due to the appearance of one of these signs.
היכי דמי אי דעביד להו דרך שטות אפי' בחדא נמי אי דלא עביד להו דרך שטות אפילו כולהו נמי לא
The Gemara asks: What are the circumstances of the case under discussion? If he performs them in a deranged manner, then even the appearance of one sign should be enough to classify him as an imbecile. If he does not perform these actions in a deranged manner, but has a reason to act this way, then even if he performs all of them he should not be deemed an imbecile.
לעולם דקא עביד להו דרך שטות והלן בבית הקברות אימור כדי שתשרה עליו רוח טומאה הוא דקא עביד והיוצא יחידי בלילה אימור גנדריפס אחדיה והמקרע את כסותו אימור בעל מחשבות הוא כיון דעבדינהו לכולהו הוה להו
The Gemara answers: Actually, the baraita is referring to one who performs these actions in a deranged manner, but each action on its own could be explained rationally. With regard to one who sleeps in the cemetery, one could say that he is doing so in order that an impure spirit should settle upon him. Although it is inappropriate to do this, as there is a reason for this behavior it is not a sign of madness. And with regard to one who goes out alone at night, one could say that perhaps a fever took hold of him and he is trying to cool himself down. And as for one who tears his garments, one could say that he is a man engaged in thought, and out of anxiety he tears his clothing unintentionally. Despite these possible explanations, since one performed all of these together they are considered