Pesachim 64 Relying on miracles

The Mishna on daf 64a describes how the Kohanim were divided into 3 different shifts for offering up the קרבן פסח  in order to prevent overcrowding.

When the first group was full,  נעלו דלתות העזרה (they locked the doors of the courtyard.)

On daf 64b, Aba opines that the correct גירסא (wording) of the Mishna is “ננעלו”  (“were locked”-or that is at least what was meant by the Mishna.)

This implies that the doors were miraculous locked when occupancy was full.

Rava, in contrast, upholds the reading of the Mishna in front of us, and insists that people locked the doors.

The Gemara understands this as a debate between Abaya and Rava regarding whether we rely on miracles.

According to Abaya, people kept entering until the doors locked by themselves, relying on the expected miracle to keep them from the dangers of overcrowding.

In contrast, Rava holds that we do not rely on such miracles, and that people actively locked the doors.

Although it might  seem from here that Abaya believes that it is permitted to rely on miracles, it is possible that this was only in the בית המקדש  where miracles were the norm.

In fact, the Gemara on our daf later quotes a Beraisa that says that there was only one case in history  when a person was harmed by the crowding in the Beis haMikdash!

Further, The Mishna (Avos 5/5) lists no less than 10 miracles that regularly  took place in the בית המקדש , which I have attempted to translate as follows:

  1. No woman miscarried from the smell of the sanctified meat.
  2. The sanctified meat never became rotten.
  3. A fly was never seen in the slaughterhouse.
  4. The Kohain Gadol never had a seminal emission on Yom-Kippur.
  5. The rain never extinguished the fire on the altar.
  6. The wind never prevailed over the pillar of smoke.
  7. A disqualifying property was never found in the Omer, two loaves, or show bread.
  8. People stood crowded but had plenty space to bow.
  9. A snake or scorpion never caused damage in Jerusalem.
  10. No one ever said that he felt claustrophobic in Jerusalem .

Whereas most or perhaps all of this miracles could be considered natural miracles that though unlikely, do not involve that which is impossible according to the laws of nature, it is certainly clear from here that the בית המקדש  was not comparable to anywhere else when it comes to the frequency of miracles, and even if  a supernatural miracle such as doors automatically closing occurred there regularly enough that it could be relied upon, one can certainly not conclude from there that Abaya would condone relying on miracles anywhere else.

Although there is a concept that Torah and Mitzvos offer a degree of protection (see Sotah 21a and  post on Pesachim 8) it is clear that where the danger is common or definitely present, one may not rely on that protection even while fulfilling a mitzva (Pesachim 8.)

Although Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi took the rather extreme step of learning next to people who were afflicted with רעתן  (a terrible contagious disease) relying on this protective power (Kesubos 77b), most Amoraim were particular to keep their distance, and if that was the case with some of the greatest Amoraim, it follows that this is certainly the case for all of us, whose stature does not compare to theirs.

Returning to our daf, we should note that Rava appears to hold that relying on miracles is not acceptable where a common danger is present, even in the בית המקדש  where miracles were so common, AND even though it was during the fulfillment of  one of the greatest mitzvos!

We should also note that with only 6 exceptions (see Bava Metzia 22b ) the halacha usually follows Rava in his disputes with Abaya.

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.

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