Talmud Tips

For the week ending 5 July 2014 / 7 Tammuz 5774

Ta’anit 23 - 31

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

“When the charity collectors saw Rabbi Elazar from Birta in the marketplace they tried to hide from him.”

Our gemara tells us that Rabbi Elazar’s daughter was to be married and he went to the market to purchase a dowry for her. However, the charity collectors knew of his “super-generosity” and did not want to approach him for fear that he would give them virtually everything he had. Nevertheless, he ran after them and forced them to tell him why they were collecting now. When he heard that they were gathering funds for the marriage of two orphans to one another, he gave them all his money except for one zuz, with which he bought wheat for food for his family. But no dowry for his daughter.

A question is raised based on the teaching of our Sages that one should not give more than a fifth of his wealth to charity (Ketuvot 50a). However, this is true when one goes out to seek potential recipients for charity; but if one is approached with a special request for need to feed or clothe or help another — there is no limit on the amount of charity given. It is even admirable to give more than a fifth, as in this case. (See Ahavat Chessed by the Chafetz Chaim, 20:2)

The Maharsha on our sugya asks why charity to strangers should precede the needs of his own daughter and answers in a way that he notes is not too satisfactory.

  • Ta’anit 24a

“One who mourns for Jerusalem merits and sees her happiness, and one who does not mourn over Jerusalem does not see her happiness.”

This oft-quoted statement is taught in a beraita on our daf and is based on a verse in Yeshayahu chapter 66. It has been pointed out that the statement is in the present tense and not in the future: “merits”, “sees” — instead of “will merit”, “will see”. If one mourns the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash and Jerusalem, he merits that G-d will right now “open his eyes” to see the rebuilding and current happiness of Jerusalem. And, as a result, he is happy as well (Maharsha).

  • Ta’anit 30b

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