Masechet Chagigah 6a-12b

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12 Apr 2007

The Coming Week’s Daf Yomi by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim (original ideas) of Talmudic scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud.

This month’s Steinsaltz Daf Yomi is sponsored by Dr. and Mrs. Alan Harris, the Lewy Family Foundation, and Marilyn and Edward Kaplan


Chagigah 6

According to the Mishnah (2a) even children were supposed to be taken on the holiday trip to Jerusalem, unless they were so small that they could not ride on their father’s shoulders up to the Temple Mount (according to Bet Shammai) or hold their father’s hand and make that trip (according to Bet Hillel).

According to both opinions, the issue at hand is whether the child was old enough to be able to travel from the city of Jerusalem up to the Temple Mount with his father’s assistance. Our Gemara quotes Rabbi Zeira as asking how the child got to Jerusalem, if they are so young that they could not finish the trip. In response, Abayye explains that a younger child may have traveled to Jerusalem under his mother’s care, since she is obligated in simchat ha-regel (to participate in the joy and celebration of the holiday), and so, likely accompanied her husband to Jerusalem.

Abayye’s answer raises the question of a woman’s place in the mitzvah of aliya la-regel. A woman’s obligation in simchat ha-regel is derived from the passage in Sefer (Book of) Devarim (14:26) which commands men to celebrate together with their households. Nevertheless, this obligation is not clearly defined. Rashi does not appear to connect it with holiday sacrifices, rather he understands that it obligates a husband to do everything in his power to ensure that his wife participates in the joy of the holiday celebration. One logical conclusion would be that a married woman should spend the holiday together with her husband. Tosafot does connect this commandment with the holiday sacrifices, and he sees the husband as being obligated to bring shalmei Chagigah – korbanot which are eaten (in part) by their owners – and share them with his wife. Some interpret the Rambam as agreeing with Tosafot, but the Lechem Mishnah understands that the Rambam obligated the woman herself to bring these sacrifices, so she would have had to go to the Temple herself, as well.

Chagigah 7

Part of the standard morning prayer-service includes a Mishnah (Pe’ah 1:1), which lists a number of mitzvot she-ein lahem shi’ur – commandments that have no limit. Among the commandments that appear on this list are:

Our Gemara quotes this Mishnah in an attempt to examine and define the mitzvah of re’ayon – visiting the Temple. On the holiday itself it is clear that everyone is required to visit the Temple with a sacrifice in hand. The question is whether on Hol ha-Mo’ed a visit to the Temple necessitates an accompanying korban. Rabbi Yohanan defines this commandment of re’ayon as entering the Temple, so someone coming without a sacrifice would also be admitted; Resh Lakish explains it to refer to bringing sacrifices, and everyone entering the mikdash would be obligated to bring a korban with him.

Aside from this disagreement, we find that Rabbi Yohanan teaches how until Rabbi Oshaya came and taught otherwise, the first assumption was that while re’ayon has no upper limit, there was a minimum requirement to fulfill the mitzvah.  Rabbi Oshaya clarified that there is no Biblical minimum, and the requirement to bring sacrifices of a specific minimum value is a Rabbinic enactment.

Although our Gemara seems to indicate that Rabbi Yohanan accepts Rabbi Oshaya’s approach, in the Talmud Yerushalmi it is clear that there are serious differences between them with regard to this issue. According to Rabbi Oshaya, in all cases where the Torah does not attach a specific shi’ur (measurement), any minimum or maximum requirement that we find is only Rabbinic in nature. Rabbi Yohanan, on the other hand, believes that shi’urim are halakhah le-Moshe mi-Sinai – an oral tradition given to Moses on Mount Sinai and handed down through the generations – which gives them the strength of Biblical requirements.

Chagigah 8

Two of the sacrifices that are ordinarily brought by the pilgrims who come to Jerusalem for the holidays are olot re’iyah and shalmei Chagigah. A korban olah is sacrificed in its entirety on the altar; shelamim, on the other hand, includes a portion that is eaten by the owners. These sacrifices are those that we discussed as having no shiur (measurement) – there is no minimum or maximum number of sacrifices that need be brought – although the Sages did establish a minimum requirement.

The Mishna on our daf (page) discusses four cases of people coming to bring sacrifices:

A poor person with a large family is encouraged to bring more shelamim and minimize his olot. A wealthy person with a small family is told to bring more olot and minimize his shelamim. A poor person with a small family brings the minimum according to the ruling of the Sages from both olot and shelamim. The passage that commands every person to bring according to his abilities and according to the blessings that he has received from God (see Devarim 16:17) is applied to the wealthy person with a large family, who brings a large number of both types of korbanot.

It is the double expression in the above quoted pasuk (verse) –

  1. Ish ke-matnat yado (every man shall give as he is able),
  2. Ke-birkat Hashem Elokecha asher natan lakh (according to the blessing of ha-Shem your God which He has given to you).

that is interpreted as referring to the two separate sacrifices.

Rashi understands that the first half of the pasuk refers to olot, while the end of the pasuk refers to shelamim.
The Maharsha disagrees, arguing that Ish ke-matnat yado specifically refers to shelamim. It is, after all, the shelamim which is not only brought as a sacrifice, but is also shared with members of the family, thus fulfilling the idea that the man who brought the korban is also involved in giving to others.

Chagigah 9

If someone does not take the opportunity to bring the required holiday sacrifices on the first day of Yom Tov, he can still bring them throughout the holiday. If he allows the entire holiday to pass without bringing them, he is not obligated to bring any kind of a “make up” sacrifice – he has simply lost his opportunity to fulfill this mitzvah. The Mishnah on our daf (page) applies the passage (Kohelet 1:15) me’uvat lo yukhal litkon, ve-hesron lo yukhal le-himanot which is translated literally as “a crooked thing that cannot be fixed; something missing that cannot be counted.” The Mishnah offers two other examples to which that pasuk (verse) can be applied –

The Gemara quotes a baraita in which other examples are offered, as well.

There is a tradition that teaches that Ben Hei Hei (and his colleague, Ben Bag Bag) were converts; according to some, they were the converts accepted by Hillel ha-Zaken against the opinion of Shammai ha-Zaken (as described in Shabbat 30b), when Shammai lost patience with the questions and attitudes of the non-Jews who came to inquire about conversion, while Hillel welcomed them and their questions. These odd names hint to their unusual family background, and they may have been called by these names in order to protect them from the government. In the fifth chapter of Masechet Avot, we find a teaching offered by Ben Hei Hei – le-fum tza’arah agrah – “the more effort, the greater the reward.” This teaching fits in with other ideas shared by Ben Hei Hei on our daf, like his suggestion that someone who does not review his Torah studies 101 times is considered someone who is lacking in his service of God.

Chagigah 10

While some halakhot are clearly stated in the Torah, others are barely hinted at, and are derived through a variety of methods of exegesis. Our Mishnah lists different laws and comments about how clear the sources are for each of them.
Heter nedarim – the court’s ability to free someone from vows that they have taken upon themselves – are described as “floating in the air” in that they have no solid source in the Torah.

Hilchot Shabbat and Chagigot (the laws of the Shabbat and the requirement of certain specific sacrifices on pilgrimage holidays) are among the examples of laws that are considered “mountains that hang by a hair” in that they have some source in the Torah, albeit a weak one. The Jewish legal system, the rules of ritual purity and the laws of forbidden sexual relations are examples of halakhot that are well grounded in lengthy passages in the Torah.

The Turei Even explains the distinction between those halakhot that “float in the air” and those that “hang by a hair” as depending on the extent to which the source for the law is unknown. Those that are considered “floating on air” have no true source in the Torah; they are derived from a hint. Heter nedarim for example, does not appear anywhere in the Torah. It is derived from another law, one that allows a father to annul the vows of his daughter, or a husband to annul the vows of his wife, under specific circumstances (see Bamidbar chapter 26). On the other hand, halakhot that “hang by a thread” do have a solid Biblical foundation, just that the Torah does not spell out what the requirements are in a comprehensive way. The concept of Shabbat, for example – including the idea prohibiting creative work on that day – is clearly written in the Torah in several places. Nevertheless, the 39 specific categories of work that are forbidden are derived from the activities of the Tabernacle, and are not mentioned in the Torah.

Chagigah 11

The second perek (chapter) of Masechet Chagigah opens with a discussion of certain topics in the Torah that should not be taught in public settings. For example, arayot – forbidden sexual relationships – should not be taught to more than two students at a time. Ma’aseh bereshit – the secrets of creation – are limited to a single student, while ma’aseh merkavah – the secrets of the supernatural – cannot be taught even to a single student, unless he is a scholar who has the ability to understand on his own. According to the Gemara, the concern in all of these cases is that one student may begin to ask the teacher questions and during the distraction the others may begin discussions that will keep them from focusing on the continued lecture. In these issues, if the students rule incorrectly, the repercussions can be severe.

On a superficial level, the Mishnah turns to this topic as a natural continuation to the discussion that appeared in the last perek. There we learned (see the Mishnah on 10a) that some halakhot are clearly written and developed in the Torah, others are mentioned succinctly, and some are barely hinted at and are left to the Sages. Similarly we find entire topics that the Sages felt needed to remain “hidden” from public view and only taught within a small circle of the initiated. In his Zeker le-Chagigah, Rav Mordechai Zvi Reinhold suggests a further connection with Masechet Chagigah. He argues that the obligation to travel to Jerusalem and to approach God in His Temple is a mitzvah of deep and great significance. Far from being taken lightly, the pilgrim approaching the mikdash needs to be encouraged to appreciate that this trip is not a simple excursion to Jerusalem, but a journey to a higher realm of existence, one that is beyond the ken of the average person. The difficulty here is that even as the significance of the journey should be appreciated by all, the concepts are so complicated that great care must be taken in presenting those ideas to the masses.

Chagigah 12

The Mishnah (11b) taught that ma’aseh bereshit – the secrets of creation – can be taught only to a single student, while ma’aseh merkavah – the secrets of the supernatural – can only be taught to a single student, if he is a scholar who has the ability to understand on his own. How are the terms ma’aseh bereshit and ma’aseh merkavah to be understood? The Rambam interprets ma’aseh bereshit as the study of science generally, and ma’aseh merkavah as the study of the supernatural. Tosafot and the Bartenura suggest that these involve the study of shemot – use of the holy names of God in an attempt to understand the secrets of creation and Godly intervention in the workings of the world. The Tosafot Yom Tov argues that what is limited is not merely the study and analysis of these secrets, but their use in performing supernatural acts.

Our Gemara brings teachings of the Sages that touch on these areas of study. One example is the dispute between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel about the order of creation. Bet Shammai argues (based on the passage in Bereshit 1:1) that the shamayim – the sky, or firmament – was created before the earth, while Bet Hillel points to a later pasuk (verse) (Bereshit 2:4) that seems to indicate that it was the earth that was created before the heavens. Bet Hillel also argues from a logical perspective, that the attic of a house is built only after the foundation and building are complete (see Amos 9:6), while Bet Shammai views the heavens as God’s chair and the earth as His footrest (see Yeshayahu 66:1), and argues that the chair should precede the footrest. A compromise position is laid out by the Chachamim, who point to another passage in Sefer (Book of) Yeshayahu (48:13) as indicating that the heavens and earth were created simultaneously. One explanation of this position is that the heavens and earth can be compared to a clay pot and its cover that are placed in the furnace so that they will harden. It is only if they are placed in the furnace together that the potter can be certain that the cover will be a perfect fit to the finished pot.

In addition to his monumental translation and commentary on the Talmud, Rabbi Steinsaltz has authored dozens of books and hundreds of articles on a variety of topics, both Jewish and secular. For more information about Rabbi Steinsaltz’s groundbreaking work in Jewish education, visit or contact the Aleph Society at 212-840-1166.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.