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Beit Midrash Series Ein Ayah

Based on Ein Ayah, Shabbat 13:6

Going Beyond the Obvious

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Gemara: Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav: Whoever is lazy in his eulogy of a scholar is worthy to be buried alive, as the pasuk says: "They buried [Yehoshua] on the border of his estate in Timnat Serach, which is in the mountain of Ephrayim, to the north of (mitz’fon) Mount Ga’ash" (Yehoshua 24:30). This teaches us (based on the meaning of the name Ga’ash) that the mountain churned with the desire to kill the people.

Ein Ayah: When referring to someone as lazy about a eulogy, it implies that he is involved in eulogizing the scholar, but that he does it with an element of laziness, i.e., he does not complete the picture of honor as he should. Indeed a person should be concerned lest he fail to give the proper honor and stress the proper points when eulogizing the scholar.

Whenever one appraises a scholar, he should be aware not only of the clear positive attributes, regarding which many people are aware and in fact have benefited directly from his light. We should realize that there are many ways in which a scholar’s persona can impact people beyond those ways in which his wisdom and all other positive matters find expression in known projects and manners. There is a treasure house that is sealed shut and hidden in the spirit of the scholar, whose holy spiritual characteristics work in a manner that secretly qualitatively improve his open contributions.

One who is lazy about the eulogy does not care to try to uncover the hidden treasure that the world lost when the scholar passed away. He suffices with matters that are known and their clear impacts, which everyone feels upon his death. This is very damaging laziness, as not only does he not touch on very important unknown elements, but he does not even capture the full impact regarding the known matters. This is because all of the scholar’s achievements are nurtured by certain internal, hidden strengths.

The "measure for measure" consequence for the eulogizer is to be "buried alive," i.e., that all of his own known achievements will not be considered of consequence. This is similar to the way he did not make an effort to ensure that the scholar’s achievements would be given their full due.

This shortcoming occurred in Yehoshua’s generation. Everyone knew that Yehoshua had led the people into Eretz Yisrael, had conquered it, and had vanquished many powerful kings. Because this was so obvious, people did not bother to penetrate his spiritual being and notice that he was a great prophet and was tremendously diligent about his Torah study, fulfilling, "the Torah will not move from you" and "you shall be involved in it day and night" (Yehoshua 1:8). The eulogizers missed the true spiritual advantage found in Yehoshua’s heart but noticed only the famous achievements which were less profound than his main attribute as a servant of Hashem.

That is why the mountain desired to kill them. It was not Mount Ga’ash itself which wanted this, because that refers to the side that churns noisily. Rather it was the part to the north, with the word tz’fon being a play on words with tzafun (hidden). The churning side is actually the less important element that the generation missed, while the hidden side was wondrous and holy.

We learn this rule for all generations. If people cannot notice the inner greatness of the spirit, they do not have an appreciation of true life. Therefore, it is fitting for them to be covered up and buried alive.
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