Mishnah/Seder Zeraim/Tractate Berakhot/Chapter 1/5
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Seder Zeraim, Tractate Berakhot
Chapter 1, Mishnah 5
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One of the reasons that the section Vayomer (“G-d spoke to Moses…,” Numbers 15:37–41) is appended to the Shema is because it mentions the exodus from Egypt. However, since the primary subject of this paragraph is the commandment of tzitzit, which is in force only during the daytime, it might be thought that it need not be recited at night. This mishnah records a debate on the subject.
It would seem that this mishnah, which discusses one of the three paragraphs of the Shema itself, should have come before the preceding one, which discusses the blessings framing the Shema. Tiferet Yisrael suggests that this mishnah is placed here because the blessings following the Shema (both in the morning and in the evening recitations) focus primarily on Israel's redemption from Egypt.
This mishnah (except for the first stich) is also cited in the Passover Haggadah, in keeping with the theme of discussing the exodus at great length during the Seder.
- מַזְכִּירִין יְצִיאַת מִצְרַיִם בַּלֵּילוֹת.
- אָמַר רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן עֲזַרְיָה:
- הֲרֵי אֲנִי כְּבֶן שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה,
- וְלֹא זָכִיתִי שֶׁתֵּאָמַר יְצִיאַת מִצְרַיִם בַּלֵּילוֹת,
- עַד שֶׁדְּרָשָׁהּ בֶּן זוֹמָא,
- שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: "לְמַעַן תִּזְכֹּר אֶת יוֹם צֵאתְךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ".
- "יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ" – הַיָּמִים,
- "כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ" – הַלֵּילוֹת.
- וַחֲכָמִים אוֹמְרִים:
- "יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ" – הָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה,
- "כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ" – לְהָבִיא לִימוֹת הַמָּשִׁיחַ.
- One must mention the exodus from Egypt at night.
- Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah said:
- "Behold, I am like a seventy-year-old man,
- yet I could not win [the argument against the other sages] having the exodus from Egypt recited at night,
- until Ben Zoma derived it [from a Biblical source]."
- "[He derived it as follows:] It says (Deut. 16:3), 'In order that you may remember the day when you left Egypt for all the days of your life.'"
- "Now, 'days of your life' means the days;
- 'All the days of your life' [includes also] the nights."
- But the Sages say:
- "Days of your life" means the present world;
- "All the days of your life" includes also the era of Mashiach.
Like a seventy-year-old man: At one point the Sages voted to temporarily demote the nassi (president of the Sanhedrin), Rabban Gamliel, from his position. (The details of the story are given in the Gemara, Berakhot 27b–28a.) They settled on Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, who was then eighteen years old (or, according to the Jerusalem Talmud, sixteen), to replace him. Miraculously, his beard turned gray overnight, giving him the appearance of a venerable sage, in order to enhance his authority. Rabbi Elazar is thus saying, “Although I am one of the leading Sages, so much so that G-d performed a miracle on my behalf to ratify my position as nassi, yet it was not I but rather one of the junior students (see below) who was able to come up with a solid proof for this law.”
I could not win (Bartenura). Other commentaries (Maimonides, Aruch) translate this phrase: “I did not merit [to find a source for this law].”
Ben Zoma was one of the leading students in the academy of Yavneh, where this episode took place. His full name was Shimon ben Zoma, but he is generally referred to by his patronymic (and is never referred to with the title “Rabbi”) because he died at a young age and never received semikhah (Rabbinical ordination).
According to Ben Zoma, in the future era of Moshiach the Egyptian exodus will no longer rate mentioning, since the miracles associated with it will have been completely overshadowed by those of the Messianic era. Hence he is forced to explain that the word “all” in the verse as referring to the nights. The Sages counter that the Egyptian exodus will still continue to be remembered at that time, though it will be relegated to secondary importance, and hence the word “all” need not refer to the nights at all. (Some commentaries, however, explain that the Sages interpret the phrase “days of your life” to include both the days and the nights, so that they agree as a practical matter that the section Vayomer must be recited at night too; their dispute with Ben Zoma concerns only the question of the recital in the Messianic era.)