By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Kesubos 42 – It’s All with a Plan
Twenty two years. That’s a long time from just about anyone’s perspective. And that is how long Rabbah and Rav Yosef – and by extension the entire Torah world of that time – had to endure not knowing the answer to their question.
Rabbah had been asked by Abayei if, according to Rabi Shimon, knas assumes a status of mamon once the case was brought to Beis Din and the offender was found guilty. The difference, of course, is in terms of whether or not the one to whom the knas is owed transmits it via inheritance in the event that he dies before actually getting paid, or not. Knas is not transmitted via yerusha, whereas mamon is.
Rabbah had told Abayei that, yes, once haamadah b’din takes place, knas transmutes into mamon and is subject to the power of inheritance to pass it on from one generation to the next, even according to Rabi Shimon, and the offender will indeed have to pay the heirs.
A major kashya was put up against this statement of Rabbah, though. The Mishna says, quite clearly, that according to Rabi Shimon the knas by ones u’mefateh only becomes mamon after it is actually paid to the father of the girl who was victimized. Before the cash is transferred, though, the obligation of the offender to pay remains with the classification of knas according to Rabi Shimon, and is not subject to dinei yerusha.
This kashya stuck for twenty two long years.
Now, we may be inclined to say, “So what?” What is the big deal if a kashya went unanswered for twenty two years? Well, consider the following description which can be found in The Seraph of Brisk. Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin would learn together with one of his talmidim. Generally, whenever a kashya would arise, Rav Yehoshua Leib would resolve it with lightning quickness. Sometimes, he would have to ponder the matter for a moment or two before proffering his brilliant answer. It did happen, though, albeit infrequently, that even after deliberating the question for a few moments, that Rav Yehoshua Leib would not discover the right solution.
When that would happen, he and his talmid would go back to the beginning of the sugyah and read everything more slowly and carefully than the first time. Upon once again reaching the point of difficulty, he would ponder it another time and usually the answer would come. However, sometimes even then Rav Yehoshua Leib would still not come upon the answer. If that happened, he would ask his talmid to go back to the beginning of the sugyah and read every single word with extreme emphasis while he would pace back and forth listening intently to every word.
If the resolution still escaped him after this procedure, he would suddenly burst out in bitter tears and sobbing, say viduy, and beg Hashem to open up his heart to perceive the answer. After that, he would put a kopek in the tzedakah box. Inevitably, a smile would immediately follow and he would begin to expound on the resolution beginning with, “Really, it’s quite simple…”
The point of referencing this story is to demonstrate that for some people the words that we all say every evening during Maariv – “for they are our lives and the length of our days” – are completely literal. And if that is true of Gedolei Torah who lived within the past two or three centuries, we can only imagine how much real pain and anguish the Chachamim in the times of the Tannaim and Amoraim would suffer when there was a part of Torah that they could not understand!
So, yes, it must have been a very long twenty two years.
Then, as if with a miraculous flash of light, the answer finally came. Rabbah passed on and Rav Yosef was appointed his successor as Rosh Yeshiva. Now, Rabbah was known for his incredible power of incisive sharpness, whereas Rav Yosef was known for his total mastery and fluency of every single piece of Torah knowledge. Phenomenal Bekius.
Rav Yosef was granted a very special siyata d’Shmaya, though, that would afford him great renown in the Torah world; far surpassing that which he already possessed. He was granted the understanding to finally answer the kashya that had gone unresolved for the entire twenty two years that Rabbah had served as Rosh Yeshiva.
There is a difference, explained Rav Yosef, between the knas of ones u’mefateh and all other knasos. Since, in regards to ones u’mefateh, the Torah employs the word v’nasan, we see, according to Rabi Shimon, that until the money is actually handed over to the father, it is not considered mamon.
We can only imagine how much this bolstered Rav Yosef’s stature in the eyes of all the many talmidim. “Wow! He answered the kashya that even Rabbah was unable to answer for his entire tenure as Rosh Yeshiva!” To put it into more modern terminology that we can relate to, it would be like someone managing to answer a tzarich iyun gadol of Rabi Akiva Eiger that no one had ever managed to resolve.
All that suffering, without any answer, for twenty two long years, and then boom! The answer came as quick as lightning, and it was clear – with 20/20 hindsight – why Shamayim had withheld the answer until now.
Interestingly enough, when Rav Yehudah – the Rosh Yeshiva before Rabbah – had passed on, the initial decision was to appoint Rav Yosef as his immediate successor; not Rabbah. Why? Because although incisive depth is exceedingly important, fluency and bekius is even more basic. However, Rav Yosef demurred. He had been informed by those who know these things that he would only be Rosh Yeshiva for two and half years. Wanting to extend his time on this world, he stepped aside so that Rabbah could be Rosh Yeshiva first. Rabbah held that position for twenty two years until his petirah, at which time Rav Yosef took over for the remaining two and a half years of his life.
The Gemara at the end of Maseches Brachos says that from this we see that one who allows himself to be pushed aside for the moment, eventually time will make way for him.
It seems pretty clear, though, that what we learn about in today’s daf was also the result of that singularly momentous decision that Rav Yosef had made twenty two years prior. In the zechus of Rav Yosef’s willingness to give up his rightful spot on top, Hashem arranged that when his time would finally come, it would be with spectacular success.
Hashem’s plan is usually hidden from us. We really don’t understand why things have to happen as they do. Sometimes, like in this story of Rav Yosef, we are given a slight glimpse into the inner workings of the Divine calculations. But even then, we still don’t really understand. After all, do we know why Rabbah had to suffer the embarrassment of not knowing the answer to the question on his statement for twenty two years? Of course not!
What can give us tremendous chizuk, though, is knowing that no matter how inexplicable it may seem to us, there is definitely a plan. Everything that happens in our lives, our successes, our failures, our challenges – to the most infinitesimal details, has been mapped out for us by the master Choreographer. Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu doesn’t leave anything that happens in our lives to random chance. Whatever it may be, both the good and that which looks bad now, is occurring because He, and only He knows what it is that we need to go through in life. Even though we cannot necessarily fathom it, we know that it is all with a plan. Knowing that fact can afford us a great sense of comfort and security, even in our most difficult moments.
Rabbi Yehoshua Berman serves as the Rosh Kollel of Kollel Reshet HaDaf in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. In addition to having authored Reflections on the Parsha, Rabbi Berman regularly delivers shiurim on Halacha and Hashkafa, writes comprehensive chazara questions (in Hebrew) for the advanced Daf Yomi learner, and weekly words of inspiration from the Parsha. Rabbi Berman can be contacted at email@example.com.