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Talmud Yerushalmi-Taanit



(5742) The difference between Talmud Bavli (Sukkah 52b) and Yerushalmi (Taanit 3:4 end) if Galut is something that G-d   regrets.

Sukkah 52b
R. Hana b. Abba stated: It was said at the schoolhouse, There are four things of which the Holy One, blessed be He, repents that He had created them, and they are the following: Exile, the Chaldeans, the Ishmaelites and Evil Inclination. ‘The Exile’, since it is written, Now, therefore, what do I here, saith the L-rd, seeing that My people is taken away for naught etc.;‘the Chaldeans’, since it is written, Behold the land of the Chaldeans — this is the people that was not; ‘the Ishmaelites’, since it is written, The tents of the robbers prosper, and they that provoke G-d are secure since G-d brought them with His hand; ‘the Evil Inclination’, since it is written, And I will gather her that is driven away and her that I have afflicted.



The commentaries on the Torah explain that the matters of the opposite of blessing in the “Rebuke” in our portion [i.e., this week’s Torah reading, Parshas Savo] are not only rebukes and warnings, which would come “if you do not listen to the voice of G-d your L-rd,” rather, they are prophetic statements which have been fulfilled. As the Abarbanel puts it: “It is appropriate to know that the curses mentioned in this portion are not intended to be threatening and to overwhelm, to frighten the hearts of men; they come, rather, in a spirit of G-dly holiness, relating what will be in their end. Indeed, they have all been fulfilled, etc.”

The verses of the portion of the Rebuke speak in general about the punishment of exile: “G-d will disperse you among the nations, etc.” The commentaries explain in detail how all matters of the opposite of blessing have been fulfilled after the destruction of the Second Temple (the Forth Exile), or even after the destruction of the First Temple (the Exile of Bavel and etc.).

It is understood that the intent and purpose of the afflictions of exile and etc. of the Rebuke is not for the sake, G-d forbid, of vengeance against Jews or simply for the sake of punishing them, rather, it is for their good. As Rashi puts it: “The curses and the afflictions sustain you and stand you up before Him.”

[However] we must understand: The Gemara says that “There are four things which the Holy One Blessed Be He regrets having created. These are they: The Exile, Kasdim [i.e., the Exile of Bavel – see Footnote 13 in the original], Yishmaelim [i.e., the Forth Exile – see Footnote 13], and the Evil Inclination.” From this it is implied that the Exile is not good for the Jews. For if the Exile would bring with it a benefit, which were it not for the Exile we would miss out on this benefit, why would it be “regretted”?

In the [Gemara] Yerushalmi we actually find that only “three things” are cited; “Exile” is not mentioned.

However, it is very difficult to say that on account of the latter quandary the Yerushalmi omits reference to Exile – and this comprises a dispute of the [Talmud] Bavli against the Yerushalmi: whether or not the concept of exile contains a benefit – for the latter question applies not only to Exile, but also to the other three items: “Kasdim, Yishmaelim, and the Evil Inclination.”

Moreover, “All that which the Holy One Blessed Be He created in His world He created solely for His honor.” All that G-d created – including, “Kasdim, Yishmaelim, and the Evil Inclination” – is “for His honor,” and consequently, [it was all created] for a good purpose. Now, how is it possible to say also with respect to the three items (in the Yerushalmi) that the Holy One Blessed Be He regrets them (and in the terms of the Yerushalmi, “He regrets (taha [a stronger term, connoting being astonished]) that He created them”)?

2. An explanation of the above, prefaced by the principle that “We do not give credence to a possible [explanation that proposes a (Talmudic)] dispute” so long as there remains the possibility to explain [the subject at hand] in a manner that precludes the dispute (even if it is a stretch). Accordingly it is logical to say in our case that there is no dispute between the Bavli and Yerushalmi regarding whether the Holy One Blessed Be He also regrets the Exile.

Exile is not something that is manifest unto itself; it is, rather, a result of the Evil Inclination. That is, when one is seduced by the Evil Inclination and he succumbs to sins, this brings about Exile: “On account of our sins we were exiled.”

Thus, even according to the opinion of the Yerushalmi, since the Holy One Blessed Be He “regrets (taha)” [the creation of] the Evil Inclination, this includes within it the concept of Exile, which comes as a result of the Evil Inclination.

And since [the approach and style of] the Yerushalmi is to discuss matters in a more general way than the Bavli, so it is in the case at hand: it does not enumerate the result (Exile); it mentions only the cause (the Evil Inclination).

Whereas the Bavli, which speaks in detail, enumerates the Evil Inclination unto itself and the Exile unto itself.

This is connected to the general distinction between the exegetical approach of the Talmud Bavli and the Talmud Yerushalmi:

With regard to numerous topics, the discussion of the Talmud Yerushalmi is concise and general. These topics are elaborated on in greater detail and length in the Talmud Bavli.

Simply speaking, the reason for this difference is that the study of Gemara in Bavel continued for an extended duration after the sealing of the Talmud Yerushalmi; the compilation and sealing of the Talmud Bavli occurred “approximately one hundred years after R. Yochanan had compiled the Gemara Yerushalmis.” [Footnote 20 in the original: Rambam in his preface to the seifer HaYad.]

Thus, the Talmud Bavli is considered to be a later text than the Talmud Yerushalmi, which is one of the reason why legal rulings follows the Bavli not the Yerushalmi. That is, since the sages of the Talmud Bavli, knew what is stated in the Yerushalmi – whose sealing was prior, as mentioned above – being that they appear later chronologically, the principle is that legal rulings follow the later authorities.

And the distinction between the prior and later authorities is expressed also in the fact that the later texts are more detailed and elucidated than the earlier texts. Just as we find regarding the distinction between the literary style of the Mishna (which is to “speak concisely and include many things.” [Footnote 23: Rambam in his preface to his elucidation of the Mishnayos...]) and the style of the Gemara of a later period, so too is the distinction in the Gemara itself between the (earlier) Talmud Yerushalmi and the (later) Talmud Bavli. It is for this reason that the Yerushalmi mentions only three items (citing them in general), whereas the Bavli enumerates 4 items (in detail).

3. The following question, however, can be asked regarding this very principle:

The Gemara in Tractate Taanis says: “R. Yochanan said: ‘Three keys are in the hand of the Holy One Blessed Be He which He did not entrust to the hand of a messenger. These are they: the key of rain, the key of life, and the key of the resurrection of the dead.” And “In the West [i.e., Eretz Yisroel] they say: also the key of livelihood.”

We see here that, on the contrary, in the West, in Eretz Yisroel, they [add further] detail, including a forth item (livelihood), whereas the Bavli is more general and concise, considering livelihood not as a separate item but merely as an outcome that results from rain. As the Gemara concludes there, “And with regard to R. Yochanan, why didn’t he enumerate this? He would tell you, ‘rain is livelihood.’” That is, livelihood is an outgrowth of rain, “for seeds and fruits grow from it to sustain the world” [Rashi. See Footnote 27 original].

The explanation [of this seeming inconsistency] is simple: The aforementioned principle (in Section 2) concerning the Talmud Bavli and the Talmud Yerushalmi is premised by the notion that the Bavli is a later text (chronologically) with respect to the Yerushalmi. The opinion (in Tractate Taanis) of “the West,” cited above, was, however, not said prior to the time when “R. Yochanan said, etc.” On the contrary, “they say: also” means (in the same time period or) later.

In fact, the author of the statement in Bavli who said, “Three keys etc.,” is R. Yochanan, who, “compiled the Gemara Yerushalmis.” Accordingly, the discussion appears chronologically: The saying of R. Yochanan (following the principle as it applies to the Talmud Yerushalmi) is earlier (concise and general), and thereafter in the West “they say: also,” meaning later with respect to [the statement of] R. Yochanan, and therefore, more in detail and etc.

4. We must, however, understand with regard to the topic at hand:

Since there is regret and the negation of the principle and the cause (the Evil Inclination), there is apparently, no room to enumerate the result (Exile), which is already negated as a consequence of the regret for the cause. [Thus, this difficulty applies to the approach of the Talmud Bavli, which enumerates Exile separately.]

At first glance, this can be brought to light through preempting another question, something that is at least somewhat awkward: How is it appropriate to enumerate Exile among the things which the Holy One Blessed Be He “regrets having created”? Exile is not a creation which G-d created as an existent unto itself, as is the Evil Inclination and the others. Rather, its entire existence is dependent and connected with the conduct of man (when the Evil Inclination persuades the person to transgress and he does not repent thereafter). It comes out that the entire existence of Exile is dependent upon the conduct of Jews.

For this reason we must say, at first glance, that the regret for the creation of Exile does not mean simply [regret] for the creation of punishment for their sins, but for the fact that G-d created Exile (a new thing) as a punishment. Indeed, “there are many means available to the Omnipresent” how to punish for transgressions and sins, and we find in the Rebuke itself numerous punishments and afflictions, may G-d have mercy upon us, which come for neglecting to fulfill the Torah and commandments.

5. Accordingly we could say that this is the meaning of, “There are four things which the Holy One Blessed Be He regrets having created” (in Bavli), where Exile is enumerated separately: Notwithstanding the fact that Exile is a result of the Evil Inclination (it comes as a punishment for transgressions which result from the Evil Inclination), Exile is not a thing that is a necessary consequence of the (persuasion of) the Evil Inclination, but a creation and innovation unto itself, which G-d created as an additional punishment, and thus it is regretted unto itself.

This also comes to answer the fact that the Bavli (according to the text of the Talmud) precedes Exile to the Evil Inclination in its enumeration, notwithstanding the fact that in actuality, Exile comes after the deed accomplished by the Evil Inclination. [The reason for this order is] to emphasize that the fact that the Holy One Blessed Be He regrets the Exile does not (only) mean [that He regrets] the Exile in actuality (as a punishment for transgressions, after the domination of the Evil Inclination), but (primarily) the very creation of Exile (as a punishment), as mentioned above.

6. However, it would, therefore, seem that the distinction between the Bavli and the Yerushalmi is (not only with regard to the style of learning, whether in general or specific terms, but) a matter of a dispute. Namely, according to the opinion of the Yerushalmi, the regret is only with regard to Exile in actuality – since it is included in the regret (“taha”) for the Evil Inclination – but it is not for the very creation of Exile (for the Yerushalmi does not cite Exile in its enumeration). Whereas this is not so with regard to the opinion of the Bavli, as mentioned above.

Moreover, the order of the items enumerated in the Bavli remains unclear: There is a reason, as mentioned above, why it precedes Exile to the Evil Inclination, however, it is not understood why Exile is placed first of all the four things (and similarly with regard to the proofs from the verses).

7. The proposed explanation of the entire matter:

The distinction between the Bavli and the Yerushalmi is expressed not only in the number of items (in Bavli four things are enumerated, whereas the Yerushalmi [cites only] three). Rather, there is also a distinction in the terminology, and of consequence, also in the meaning:

The terminology of the Bavli is, “There are four things which the Holy One Blessed Be He regrets having created, etc.,” whereas the Yerushalmi reads, “There are three things the Holy One Blessed Be He created and He regrets that He created them.”

That is, the Bavli expresses the matter as a single concept, namely, G-d “regrets” (having created them). Whereas the Yerushalmi emphasizes two concepts:

  1. the fact that “the Holy One Blessed Be He created [three things]” and
  2. the fact that “He regrets that He created them.”

 And this is the distinction in meaning: It is understood and obvious that regret On High is not to be understood in the simple sense of the term, G-d forbid – that He changes his mind and regrets, G-d forbid, a thing that He had made. Rather, this expresses that there is a concept of negativity associated with it. On the other hand, it is understood that since we say that this is a thing which “the Holy One Blessed Be He created,” it emphasizes the positive element it entails.

It comes out that the Bavli speaks only of the negative quality, of the opposite of good, which exists in the four things, whereas the Yerushalmi, in addition, emphasizes their positive quality.

This subject (as is true with regard to every subject), which is discussed in Torah (whether in the Written Torah or in the Oral Torah), is not (only) related in order to describe G-d’s conduct and relationship (and how much more so if it is negative) with regard to the creations which He has created. Rather, it is (relevant to know the nature of the creations in order to derive from them) an instruction in man’s service of his Master.

And this comprises the distinction whether it is only mentioned that “There are four things which the Holy One Blessed Be He regrets having created” or if is prefaced with, “There are three things the Holy One Blessed Be He created”:

In saying “regrets” and nothing more, this expresses the notion that the four things are not true existents; they will eventually be nullified, since “He regrets having created them.” That is, their [being] is not the inner will of G-d.

But when we speak prefatorily to the concept, saying that “the Holy One Blessed Be He created,” this emphasizes that they comprise the creation – and of consequence, the will – of G-d. Thus, they contain an element of eternality (on account of the spark of G-dliness within them), as is the case with all things that “the Holy One Blessed Be He created.” However, together with this, it adds that they likewise possess an aspect of negativity.

But on the contrary: this aspect does not possess true existence, and it will [eventually] be nullified

8. Accordingly, it is understood the reason for the difference between the Bavli and the Yerushalmi:

The Yerushalmi speaks about things that possess eternality, in virtue of the fact that G-d created them (“the Holy One Blessed Be He created them”). They will, therefore, continue to exist even in the Future to Come. It is only the not-good they possess, the aspect of negativity, that will be nullified: “He regrets (taha) that He created them.”

It is for this reason that the Yerushalmi omits “Exile” in its enumeration; that is, since Exile in actuality is entirely a negative concept and will be nullified completely in the Future to Come. It lists, rather, only three things: “Kasdim, and Yishmaelim, and the Evil Inclination.” Indeed, in the Future to Come there will even be gentile nations. However, their conduct will be different then. Not only will they not persecute Jews then, G-d forbid, on the contrary, they will be transformed into [a force of] good and will even help the Jews, as it is written [Yeshaya 61:5], “Strangers will get up and tend your sheep,” and as it is written [Tz’fania 3:9], “Then I will transform the nations to have a clear language, to all call in the name of G-d, to serve Him as one unit.”

So too with regard to the Evil Inclination: in the Future to Come, the Evil Inclination’s aspect of evil will be nullified, but its strength and vitality will be transformed into good and will exist in the Future to Come.

Indeed, it [i.e., the Evil Inclination, which was originally manifest as the snake in the Garden of Eden] will be as it was before the sin [of Adam and Chava]: a great servant [see Sanhedrin 59b]. In fact, it will surpass that, exemplifying the advantage that comes about through repentance.

That is, the Evil Inclination will exist in the Future to Come not (only) on account of the benefit and virtue gained through (overcoming) it (for a semblance of that exists even now in Exile), which brings a Jew to a greater height and level, but on account of the Evil Inclination itself. Indeed, it will then be transformed into good. This is in accordance with what is stated in the Yerushalmi with regard to Avrohom our Father, peace unto him: “And He found his heart to be faithful before Him” – Avrohom our Father “made his Evil Inclination good.” Likewise [it is said] with regard to every Jew in actuality and for a limited duration: “‘With all your hearts’ – meaning, with both of your inclinations.”

The Bavli, on the other hand, emphasizes the negativity of the items it enumerates – “He regrets them” – which will eventually be nullified. That is, it speaks about the notgood in them, which will be nullified.

Thus, the Bavli includes an additional item: Exile. And for this very reason, it places it first, for the negativity and nullification associated with Exile is more absolute than that which is associated with the other items. Notwithstanding the fact that Exile brings Jews to a greater height and perfection (for were it not for Exile they would not be able to attain such a revelation of the power of selfsacrifice and etc., as it is explained in many places), this is, however, a benefit that is derived merely as an outcome of Exile [and not one that expresses a virtue of Exile unto itself]. The Exile itself, the existence of Exile, will be entirely nullified in the Future to Come; it is an eternal Redemption, with no Exile thereafter.

The fact that the Bavli prefaces Exile [in the order of enumeration] teaches a lesson about the other three things. Namely, that here it does not speak about the good in them – the fact that “the Holy One Blessed Be He created them” (which would indicate that they contain an aspect of eternality) – but about the portion of negativity they possess, that which has no true existence and which will be entirely nullified.

9. It could be postulated that also this explanation is connected with the general distinction that we find in many places between the approach of the Bavli and the approach of the Yerushalmi:

We have already mentioned many times that the approach of the Bavli is to primarily consider the present state of things, whereas the approach of the Yerushalmi looks (primarily) at the future state (with the notion that this prevails over and overcomes the present state).

And thus, there is also a connection with regard to the aforementioned distinction, [namely] whether we speak only about “He regrets them,” which underscores the nullification (of their negativity), or whether we also speak about (and emphasize) their positive aspect, the fact that “the Holy One Blessed Be He created them,” which engenders their transformation into good in the Future to Come.

Something that stands to be nullified in the future is not a true existent even at the time it exists at present (for which reason we find that rivers that dry up once in seven years are called “rivers that deceive” (and are disqualified for use in sanctifying ritually purifying waters [used to cleanse a person from the spiritual impurity associated with contact with corpses], for they are not “living waters”). Since they are sure to cease in the future, after seven years, even from the moment of their inception they are not deemed to be true existents.)

It comes out that their lack of existence is their present existential state and status (before they become nullified [in the Future to Come]). Whereas this is not so with regard to their positive aspect. That is, the fact that in the future they will be transformed into good is an innovation, the opposite of their state of being in the present time. This will only be realized in the Future to Come, a future state of being.

Therefore the Bavli emphasizes the negative aspect of the four items, following its approach of considering the present state of things.

10. All the above runs parallel with the general distinction between the Bavli and the Yerushalmi:

Concerning the Talmud Bavli it says: “‘He has set me in dark places...’ – that is the Talmud of Bavel” [Sanhedrin 24a]. In “Bavel” there is a state of concealment and hiding, from which we must distill the light from the darkness. Whereas the Yerushalmi is at the level of light. (As it is explained in many places, this itself is the reason why the Yerushalmi discusses topics in a concise fashion and in general terms, without splitting hairs and without debate, whereas Talmud Bavli speaks in detail and with lengthy debates and [attempts to resolve] quandaries and etc. To illustrate, when we find ourselves in a place that is luminous, we immediately find what we are seeking. But when we find ourselves in darkness, we must grope about and search and etc., and it takes some time before we find what we are looking for. The same applies in seeking a clear line of reasoning, or a legal ruling, using the intellect.)

Therefore, when there is state of illumination – the Talmud Yerushalmi – the subject is illuminated and we clearly see (relatively speaking) the inner dimension and the truth of the matter, as the thing will be (in the Future to Come) for eternity, for then it will be transformed into good; it will be revealed that “the Holy One Blessed Be He created [it].”

However, in a time when there is a state of “dark places” with regard to the human intellect, there must be the approach of learning of the Talmud Bavli. That is, when we don’t see the inner dimension of things – that which will be brought out after time – but the way things are at present, the negative aspect, we must toil in that (i.e., in a matter of darkness, the opposite of good, which is not a true existent) until we discover that it is not a true existent and etc.

11. The lesson we derive from all the above:

First off, we must know and remember that the concept of Exile is one of the things which G-d “regrets”; Exile is not the true state and status that G-d wants Jews to be in, Heaven forefend. This is said to Jews because they must be dissatisfied with Exile. Exile is a punishment (“because of our sins”). When a Jew feels differently, may G-d have mercy, and says that this is an acceptable condition for Jews, he says something that is the opposite of G-d’s will – for G-d regrets, and the regret is [felt] every day. It is understood the great darkness of such a person’s exile within an exile.

On the other hand, this approach must not be one that leads a person to succumb to depression, G-d forbid. We must not be put off by Exile, knowing that it is not a true state of existence, that it will eventually, very soon, be nullified. This is especially so being that we are presently in the era of the Heels of Moshiach, which demands of us that we speed up the end of Exile – “I will hasten it” – through increasing in “a candle is a commandment and Torah is light.” By doing so, we accelerate the banishment of the darkness of Exile.

Accordingly, we can also derive a lesson on how we must conduct ourselves with regard to the gentile nations of the world (“Kasdim and Yishmaelim”): We must not be put off by them. They have no strength or existence with respect to their opposition to Judaism. Therefore, with regard to all matters of Judaism, also in the time of Exile, we must “speak” to them with the appropriate force, as the Gemara describes the manner in which G’viha ben P’sisa spoke with them [Sanhedrin 91a].

And this brings about that even in the time of Exile the conduct of the gentile nations will be in a manner of “And kings will be your [children’s] caregivers and the wives of rulers [will be] your [children’s] nurses” [Yeshaya 49:23]. Indeed, this was already fulfilled in actuality a number of times – to the extent that this is a true story involving a rabbinical authority, which G-d has written in Torah [Z’vachim 19a, top]. Thus, it is intended to be [received as] an instruction of the Torah of Life, an instruction in life:

Rav Ashi said: Huna bar Nasan said to me: One time I appeared before King Izgeder (he was the king of Pras ––Rashi). [...] (His gartel was worn too high, and “he (the king) drew it downwards in order to make it nice” ––Rashi). And he said, regarding you [people] it is written, “a nation of priests and a holy people” (and you need to conduct yourselves with the beauty of priests, of whom it is written, “do not gird in [a place associated with] perspiration” ––Rashi). When I came before Amimar, he said to me, “It has been fulfilled with you, ‘And kings will be your caregivers.’”

When a Jew conducts himself in such a way that we see in him that he is an appropriate expression of “a nation of priests and a holy people,” all the kings of the land say that he must be beautiful, and they come on their own to assist in this and occupy themselves with this, and it is publicized in all corners of the earth.

The Torah is eternal, and as a luminous directive and instruction for every Jew [the Torah tells us]: take pride in the “Torah, the inheritance of the congregation of Yaakov,” and obviously do not lower your head before heathenry or before gentiles.

And together with the service of changing and transforming the Evil Inclination, reaching the level of “‘with all your hearts’ – with both of your inclinations,” it is already the time of the “Eve of Sabbath,” when we taste of every single dish that will be in the Future to Come.

This is alluded to in the testimony, “He (G-d) placed an end to darkness” [Iyov 28:3], the end of Exile, and “miyad” (immediately) comes the true and complete Redemption through our righteous Moshiach.

(From the addresses of Shabbos Parshas Chukas and Shabbos Parshas Balak 5741)


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