Halacha for Sunday 27 Tammuz 5780 July 19 2020

When the Bet Hamikdash Was Destroyed, the Shamir Worm Was Abolished

Question: If one is giving Mussar discourses to the public, may one present bad things that are happening within the Jewish nation in order to arouse the listeners or is does this cause some sort of prosecution upon the Jewish nation?

Answer: The Gemara (Yevamot 49b) states that when the prophet Yashaya fled from King Menashe, he uttered a holy name and was immediately sucked into a cedar tree. When the officers began sawing the tree and the saw reached his mouth, Yeshaya’s soul departed. The Gemara explains that the reason this happened to Yeshaya is because he stated, “And I dwell among a nation of impure lips,” and Rashi explains that he was punished for calling the Jewish nation one of impure lips on his own. Rashi adds that Yeshaya did not say this “in a manner of rebuke,” from which we can infer that had he said the very same thing to offer reproach to the Jewish nation, he would not have been punished.

We see from the words of Rashi that if one speaks ill of the Jewish nation in order to offer rebuke, this would be permissible. The Meiri, Rabbeinu Avraham Min Hahar, and Rivan concur.

The Maharal of Prague writes in his commentary on the aforementioned Gemara that although the prophets would speak harshly to the Jewish nation, nevertheless, when addressing Hashem, they would be careful not to do so. Since Yeshaya did so when speaking to Hashem, he was punished.

This would seem to fall in line with the words of Rashi and the Meiri in that one may only speak ill of the Jewish nation when this is in the context of rebuke and rebuke, by definition, must be addressed to the Jewish nation. However, in the context of speaking and praying to Hashem, one must speak the merits of the Jewish nation.

However, we must realize that our generation is not like previous ones and the individuals offering rebuke today are not like those of the days of yore. There is much to delve in this topic. However, let us quote the words of the great Gaon, Rabbeinu Pinchas Ha’Levi Horowitz zt”l, author of the Hafla’a, in his Sefer Panim Yafot (end of Parashat Yitro) on this idea:

“Although the Tanna writes (Avot 4:10) states, ‘Be low of spirit before all men,’ nevertheless there is a time and place for everything, especially returning the masses from sin and removing the heart of stone from their flesh. About this does the verse in Tehillim (31:25) state, ‘Be strong and brave of heart, all those who yearn for Hashem.’ One must be strong and stand firmly against them like a mighty wall as Hashem commanded the prophet Yirmeya to fight with them and break the impediments of their hearts.

This can be alluded to in the Mishnah (Sotah 48a) which states, ‘When the Bet Hamikdash was destroyed, the Shamir worm and the sweetness of the honeycomb was abolished.’ The Shamir worm would cut through stone without the use of metal. The Shamir would be placed on the outside of the stone and the stone would split on its own. This is a reference to open rebuke but hidden love in that a rabbi must notify his flock of the punishments while taking care not to direct the Heavenly attribute of judgment against them, just like the Shamir which was mighty but was able to split the stone without touching it.

Another way to infuse words of Mussar into the heart of the listen is by peppering the words of rebuke with words of Torah and its commentaries which are sweeter than honey. As a result of the sweetness of the Torah, the harsh words of reproach contained within them will be more easily accepted. Indeed, doctors commonly mix sharp medications with other sweet ingredients so that it will be more easily consumed by the patient.

Nevertheless, our Sages taught (Arachin 16b), ‘I would be surprised if anyone in the generation knows how to accept rebuke or how to offer it.’ This is what the Gemara meant by saying, ‘When the Bet Hamikdash was destroyed, the Shamir worm and the sweetness of the honeycomb were abolished,’ which is a reference to both harsh words like the mighty Shamir as well as words as sweet as a honeycomb. There is almost no one who knows how to properly offer words of rebuke nowadays.”

This is indeed what we have witnessed to be the way of Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l who would constantly bring the Jewish nation closer to Torah observance through loving and endearing words and he would only sparingly come out harshly against evil people who would attack the Torah and those who learn it. To the general public though, he would always speak pleasantly and lovingly. He would hint this using the verse, “The words of the wise are heard amid pleasantness.”

This response was submitted by our dear colleague, Hagaon Harav Gad Yazdi Shlit”a, beloved student of Maran zt”l.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Law Regarding a Woman Who Forgets to Recite the Blessings of the Torah

We have explained in the previous Halacha that if one forgets to recites the Blessings of the Torah and only realizes this after one has concluded Shacharit prayers, one may no longer recite these blessings, for one has already fulfilled his obligation with the “Ahavat Olam” blessing rec......

Read Halacha

The Order for Lighting Shabbat and Chanukah Candles

There is a disagreement among the Rishonim as to the order of lighting Shabbat and Chanukah candles on Erev Shabbat Chanukah. The Ba’al Halachot Gedolot (commonly referred to as “Behag”) is of the opinion that Chanukah candles must be lit before Shabbat candles because women cu......

Read Halacha

The Law Regarding One Who Forgets to Recite the Morning Blessings

The Morning Blessings (“Birkot Ha’Shachar”) are the blessings recited every morning beginning from the “Elohai Neshama” blessing until the end of the Blessings of the Torah. Both men and women must recite these blessings, as we have discussed in the laws of the Morning ......

Read Halacha

Washing Dishes on Shabbat Night and Pouring Water on Dirty Dishes

Question: Upon the conclusion of the Shabbat night meal, may one immediately wash the dishes for the Shabbat day meal or should this only be done during the day closer to the start of the meal? Also, is it permissible to pour water onto soiled dishes (which one no longer needs for Shabbat) so that i......

Read Halacha


Washing Dishes On Shabbat When Other Dishes Are Available

Question: May one wash dishes which are necessary for use on Shabbat even if one has other dishes to be used for the remaining Shabbat meals? Answer: Nowadays, most people own enough dishes to use for at least two meals, if not more. Based on this the above question arises: Will it be permissible......

Read Halacha

Question: May one recite the Amida prayer in front of a curtain (covering the Aron Kodesh) which is adorned with various designs?

Answer: The Rambam writes in one of his responses (Freiman edition, Chapter 20): “It is incorrect to pray in front of garments with designs on them, even if the designs are not protruding. We usually close our eyes when it happens that we must pray in front of a wall or garment adorned with de......

Read Halacha

Washing Dishes Which May Possibly Be Necessary on Shabbat

Question: Is it permissible to wash dishes on Shabbat which do not seem to be necessary on Shabbat but might possibly be? Answer: In the previous Halachot, we have explained the general rule that one may not wash dishes on Shabbat if they are not necessary for the day of Shabbat itself. The sourc......

Read Halacha

One Who Is In Doubt If One Recited the Morning Blessings or Not

In the previous Halacha, we have discussed the general obligations regarding the morning blessings and the blessings of the Torah. We have explained that there is no difference in terms of this obligation between men and women besides for the fact that women do not recite the blessing of “Shel......

Read Halacha