Abarbanel on the Parsha

For the week ending 28 June 2014 / 30 Sivan 5774

Ta’anit 16 - 22

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

“Go and tell the Crafter Who made you: ‘How ugly is this vessel (body) that You made!”

This advice is given on our daf by a person who was called “ugly” by Rabbi Elazar ben Rabbi Shimon from Migdal Gedor when they met one another on the road. The Sage immediately realized his error and begged the man for forgiveness. He was forgiven on condition that he would be more careful in the future. This is a lesson in humility, and to be careful not to criticize the work of the Creator despite one’s opinion.

  • Ta’anit 20b

“One should always be as flexible as a reed and not as unyielding as a cedar. This is why a reed merited to have made from it a quill to write a Sefer Torah, tefillin and mezuzot.”

Immediately following the above-mentioned event of Rabbi Elazar ben Shimon calling a certain person “ugly” and realizing his mistake and repenting, Rabbi Elazar ben Shimon returned to his Beit Midrash and taught others that the characteristic of “flexibility” — i.e. “humility” — is the reason that a reed merited being the instrument for writing a Sefer Torah, tefillin and mezuzot. The gemara on amud aleph of this daf previously explained that another benefit of the reed’s flexibility is that it would not be uprooted by winds that would uproot and upend an unyielding cedar — a characteristic that leads to the “long life” of the World-to-Come of a humble person.

  • Ta’anit 20b

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