ט״ו בכסלו ה׳תש״פ (December 13, 2019)

Nidda 52a-b: Punishing an Enemy

According to the Talmudic Sages, one of the indications of physical maturity is the appearance of two pubic hairs. In a segue from the halakhic discussion of this topic, the Gemara quotes a passage from the Sefer Iyyov in which Iyyov complains: “He crushes me with a tempest, and multiplies my wounds without cause” (Iyyov 9:17).

The Gemara brings Rava’s explanation of this pasuk .

Iyyov blasphemed with a tempest and he was answered with a tempest. He ‘blasphemed with a tempest’, saying to Him, ‘Master of the Universe, perhaps a tempest passed before You and You confused “Iyyov” with “Oyev” [enemy]?’ ‘He was answered with a tempest’: Then the Lord answered Iyyov out of the whirlwind, and said to him, ‘Greatest imbecile in the world! I have created many hairs on a person’s head and for every hair I have created a distinct follicle, so that two should not draw sustenance from the same follicle, for if two were to draw sustenance from the same follicle they would weaken a man’s vision. If I did not confuse one follicle with another, would I confuse “Iyyov” and “Oyev”?’

In his Ben Yehoyadah, Rav Yosef Ḥayyim quotes the Ari as explaining that Iyyov’s punishment was tzora’at (see Iyyov 2:7). Based on a word-play from a passage in Sefer (15:6) we can determine that the appropriate punishment for an enemy is tzora’at, since the pasuk reads: “Your right hand, O LORD, tir’atz oyev – dashes in pieces the enemy,” and the letters making up the word tir’atz can be rearranged into tzora’at. This connects with a teaching that appears in the Zohar that claims that Iyyov was the adviser to the Egyptian Pharaoh who recommended that the Children of Israel should be enslaved (in contrast with the position of the Gemara in Massekhet Sota, daf 11a that Iyyov remained silent when asked what should be done to the Jews). For this reason, Iyyov felt that he may have been taken for an enemy of God.