By Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow
Dathan Ritzenhein (born December 30, 1982 in Grand Rapids, Michigan) is an American long-distance runner. He held the American record in the 5,000-meter race (12:56.27) from 2009–10, when it was broken by Bernard Lagat. He is a three-time national cross-country champion with wins at the USA Cross Country Championships in 2005, 2008, and 2010. He now competes professionally for Nike and is coached by Alberto Salazar.
Nimrod Kamer is a prankster. Kamer tells celebrities he nefariously edited their Wikipedia page and will only remove said edits for a hefty fee. Kamer explains the purpose of the project is to show how easily he can “extort” celebrities to edit their Wikipedia pages. As amused as Kamer is by his own antics, Wikipedia’s staff is not. They’ve launched an investigation into Kamer’s celebrity edits and deleted Kamer’s Wikipedia page on the grounds that it is a “vanity” page that doesn’t satisfy “inclusion criteria.”
Omri Casspi (born June 22, 1988) is an Israeli professional basketball player with the Cleveland Cavaliers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He is 6 ft., 9 in. tall, and plays at the small forward position. He was drafted 23rd overall in the 2009 NBA draft by the Sacramento Kings, making him the first Israeli to be selected in the first round of the draft. With his debut with the Kings in 2009, Casspi became the first Israeli to play in an NBA game. The Cavaliers traded for him in June 2011.
What do all three people have in common?
The Mishnah in Eiruvin asks the following question: How are we me’abar a city (append outskirts before measuring its techum)? If the city is not a perfect square we have to figure out where to start measuring the 2,000 amos that one is allowed to walk past the outskirts of the city on Shabbos. The Mishnah proceeds to explain that we square off the city by drawing a straight line that passes the outermost city appendage. While this is somewhat complicated, it actually is totally irrelevant for the purposes of this article. This article will focus on the Mishnah’s opening question: How are we me’abar a city?
The Gemara proceeds to explain that Rav and Shmuel had four disagreements, the first of which focused on our Mishnah. Rav and Shmuel differed as to the spelling of the word me’abrim. One said it is spelled with an ayin. The Mishnah refers to the additions to the city in the same way that a fetus is an addition to a me’uberes (pregnant woman). The other one said it is spelled with an aleph. The Mishnah is calling the additions evarim, limbs.
The Gemara then proceeded to quote three other seemingly unrelated arguments.
The cave in which the Avos are buried is called Me’aras ha’Machpelah. What is the significance of the word ha’Machpelah—the doubled one? One said the cave had a second floor so it was doubled. The other one said the cave is referred to as doubled because four couples were buried there. The doubling refers to the fact that couples are buried there, not to the structure of the cave itself.
The third dispute relates to the pasuk which states, “Vayhi bi’mei Amrafel” (one of the four kings who made war with the five). One opinion said Amrafel’s real name is Nimrod. He is called Amrafel because amar v’hipil (he said and cast) Avraham into a lit furnace [for refusing to serve idolatry]. The other opinion held that his real name is Amrafel. He is just called Nimrod because he was mamrid (made rebel) the entire world against Hashem.
The final dispute relates to the verse “vayakam melech chadash al Mitzrayim” which literally means that a new king reigned over Egypt. One opinion said a new king did not really reign over Egypt. It was the same old king, just he made new evil decrees. The other opinion said the Torah is to be understood literally that a new king actually did reign at that point.
The Toras Chayim explains that all four arguments have real world applications. The second argument is relevant where someone writes a contract to sell another individual a Me’aras HaMachpelah for a burial ground. Does he have to supply the buyer with a cave that has two floors, or a cave that has sufficient room to bury four couples?
The fourth argument is relevant to where a contract was drawn up where the seller agreed to provide the buyer with a new house. If one takes an old house and performs a complete renovation, is that called a new house which would fulfill the terms of the contract? It depends upon the aforementioned dispute. Did the Torah refer to an old king as new because he underwent a complete ideological transformation? If yes, then an old house can also be deemed new if it was totally redone. If the Torah only refers to an actual new king as new, then the seller must provide a house that was built anew from the ground up.
The second argument relates to what Amrafel’s real name was and what was his nickname. The Gemara in Yoma states that one is not allowed to call his child the same name as a rasha, an evil person. However, the Toras Chaim suggests that this prohibition is limited to real names, not to nicknames. One can call his child the same nickname used by an evildoer. So it is important to know what Amrafel’s real name was so that a parent will not use the name for one of his children.
This is the connection to the three athletes mentioned above. They all share the name of a rasha. Dathan is the first of the famous pair of reshaim mentioned in the Torah, Dasan and Aviram. However Quick Baby Names states, “Based on our research, most people would imagine a person with the name Dathan to be generous and kind.”
Nimrod was a wicked person. However, Nimrod Kamer’s parents might side with the opinion that Nimrod is only a nickname so one is permitted to use it. Quick Baby Names offers the following: “Based on our research, most people would imagine a person with the name Nimrod to be rebellious and ambitious.”
Omri was a King of Yisrael. The verse in Kings 1 (16:25) says that Omri did what was evil in the eyes of Hashem. Since King Omri was in fact evil, why do people nowadays use his name?
The following is a quote from a most accurate source…Wikipedia:
“The Bible displays a negative attitude to King Omri, and it has been followed by later rabbinical tradition. However, Zionists reevaluated many Biblical characters (as well as characters from later Jewish history) according to the criteria of a movement in need of national heroes. As with many European national movements which served as an example to the founders of Zionism, ancient Jewish warriors in general and warrior kings in particular were often regarded positively. Omri, a successful warrior king and the founder of a strong dynasty, is a conspicuous example.” v
Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow leads a daf yomi chaburah at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park in West Hempstead. He can be contacted at ASebrow@gmail.com.