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Beit Midrash Series Ein Ayah

based on Ein Ayah, Shabbat 14:7

Worthwhile Discomfort?

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Gemara: Then they brought Rav to Shmuel’s house. He fed him barley bread and fish brine and had him drink whiskey, and he did not show him where the bathroom was so that he would suffer from his loose stomach. Rav cursed: "He who caused us pain should not have children," and this is what occurred.

Ein Ayah: Rav, came to Bavel for Israel’s benefit to calm them in their exile, since he saw in divine inspiration that they would be forced to be in the diaspora for a long time. Exile serves as a smelting pot for the nation, preparing and purifying them, so they will be ready at the end of days to return to the Land in honor. Rav wanted Bavel to be like Eretz Yisrael until the time of liberation. He did not believe the nation’s Torah connection could be sustained without improving the diaspora’s spiritual and physical situation, and he looked for ways to accomplish this.

Shmuel and many other scholars thought that it was appropriate to move up the end of days by making the ongoing exile impossible. They saw exile as medicine that causes great suffering. Even if in the end it heals, it comes with severe suffering. The hint at this was Rav’s situation of digestive infirmity – he needed to suffer to get better. This is what the Babylonian scholars thought was necessary, and thus they had not yet improved Bavel to rival Eretz Yisrael, which happened after Rav arrived (Gittin 6b).

Rav disagreed and believed the nation could not survive in such a lowly state. He conveyed this by saying that one who caused such pain would not have children. Rav continued his improvements, preparing the people for the eventual liberation.
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