Wednesday, January 23, 2013

:קי"ב Angels and Donkeys and Everything in Between

אמר ר' זירא אמר רבא בר זימונא אם ראשונים בני מלאכים אנו בני אנשים ואם ראשונים בני אנשים אנו כחמורים ולא כחמורו של ר' חנינא בן דוסא ושל רבי פנחס בן יאיר אלא כשאר חמורים

The following is from a הספד delivered by R' Yaakov Weinberg, זצ"ל at the end of the שבעה for R' Ruderman, זצ"ל.

 R' Weinberg explains that we all appreciate that the previous generations were on a much higher spiritual level than we are. This is not the message the גמרא is trying to convey. The גמרא is not coming to give a comparison. Rather, the גמרא is teaching us that one who looks upon the ראשונים as sons of angels, he has the status of a בן אדם. This is the way a normal person should view the ראשונים.  However, if we look at the ראשונים  as simple בני אדם, we are lowering ourselves to donkeys. Why donkeys? The pasuk (ישעיה א:ג) states יָדַע שׁוֹר קֹנֵהוּ וַחֲמוֹר אֵבוּס בְּעָלָיו, The ox knows his owner, and the donkey his master's trough. The ox is an animal that knows his owner and therefore appreciates where his food is coming from. The donkey, however, knows only his master's trough. He knows where to get the food, but he does not recognize its source. Therefore, one who views the ראשונים as mere בני אדם is cutting himself off from the previous generations and although he may be thoroughly well-versed in תורה, he has no appreciation of where it has come from and who has passed it down to him. Thus, he is like a donkey. [And not like the donkey of ר' פנחס בן יאיר who recognized his owner but like other donkeys.]

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