Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Amram's separation from Yocheved -- B'hadei kavshei Rachamana lamah lach?

Yesterday I mentioned the gemara (Sota 12) quoted by Rashi that Amram divorced Yocheved because he did not want to have any more offspring given Pharoah's gezeira to kill all male babies.  When Klal Yisrael saw what Amram did, they followed suit.

Everyone is learning daf yomi these days, so Brachos 10 is inyana d'yoma: Chizkiyahu was on the verge of death and so Hashem sent the navi Yishayahu to go visit him and tell him that he is being punished for not fulfilling the mitzvah of having children (Since when is a bitul aseh a reason to be chavay misa?  Sorry, not my topic for now.)  Chizkiyahu argued that he cannot be blamed -- how can he have children when he knows that from him will come the wicked king Menashe?  Better to not have children then to bring such evil into the world!  Yishashayu, however, rejected that reasoning.  "B'hadei kavshei Rachamana lamah lach?"  Your job, Chizkiyahu, is to fulfill Hashem's command, not to make calculations and cheshbonos as to whether that will end up being a good thing or a bad thing.  Chizkiyahu relented.

Achronim ask how to fit this gemara together with the gemara quoted by Rashi.  Why should Amram have worried about how he can have children in light of the danger of Pharoah's decree?  "B'hadei kavshei Rachamana lamah lach?"  Our job is to just do the mitzvah, not make cheshbonos.

You don't need lomdus for this -- some basic chilukim are enough to answer the question.


  1. Are we assuming Amram knew the Gemara on Brachos 10 -- but not Sotah 12 (at least until after Miriam changed his mind)? Whereas Chizkiyahu did not know the conclusion of Brachos 10 (until after Yeshayahu told him)?

    I'm just trying to understand the rules of this thought-game.

    Otherwise, the simple answer I think is that both sugyas are consistent. In each case, one Biblical hero (Amram, Chizkiyahu) represents the *hava amina* of not bringing children into a disastrous world; while the other hero/navi (Miriam, Yeshayahu) teaches the *maskana* that despite how bad things may look our job is to perform the mitzva and leave the cheshbonos to God.

    In neither case should we be bothered by the question of how hero #1 could possibly have had this hava amina, didn't they already know the maskana. Clearly the point of both stories is no, they needed a navi to teach them the maskana. It's not as if those individuals learned daf yomi and knew their own stories as recorded in the Gemara before they even occurred. If we are going to question how they acted as they did, how they even had a hava amina, I'd think the more reasonable kashe is on Chizkiyahu -- not Amram -- because he could have learned from the earlier example of Amram and Miriam.

    1. I should have phrased the question better. Let me put it this way: Miriam is saying that Amram's cheshbon is wrong -- Pharoah's gezeira was only on boys; Amram would mean no girls either, etc.
      Based on the sugya in Brachos, there should be a more fundamental objection to Amram's argument: b'hadei kavshei Rachamana lamah lach, there is no room to make any cheshbonos. It's not that his calculation was off -- it's that there is no room to make calculations at all when it comes to mitzvos.
      (from CB)

  2. "how to fit this gemara...with...[that] gemara"

    when Amram divorced Yocheved, could be that he was counting on Aharon* to succeed him as gadol hador. Hashem >"punished"< him posthumously, for all to see, by choosing Moshe to lead...

    *one of his two children, a girl and a boy

  3. The obvious difference is that in the case of Chizkiyah, the issue was clearly kavshei Rachamana. That his children would be evil is not something you could know other than through ruach ha Kodesh.

    In the case of Amram, there were was a genocidal decree, and it seems that it was in fact being carried out. You don't need ruach ha Kodesh to know that. The issue is whether it is appropriate to still keep having children under such circumstances, or just wait until the decree ends.