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Megillah, Daf Yod, Part 3

 

 

ויהי בימי אחשורוש. אמר רבי לוי ואיתימא רבי יונתן: דבר זה מסורת בידינו מאנשי כנסת הגדולה: כל מקום שנאמר ויהי אינו אלא לשון צער.

 

And it came to pass in the days of Ahashverosh.

R. Levi, or some say R. Yonatan said: The following remark is a tradition handed down to us from the Men of the Great Assembly: Wherever it says vayehi [and it was, and it came to pass], it indicates [the approach of] trouble.

 

According to this tradition, every time the Torah says the word "vayehi" it is a portent of trouble. The Talmud will now go through case by case, first listing the times when the paradigm works, and then dealing with the times the paradigm does not work.

These cases do not require any real explanation. They can easily be understood by looking at the appropriate biblical verses.

 

+אסתר א‘+ ויהי בימי אחשורושהוה המן,

+רות א‘+ ויהי בימי שפט השפטיםהוה רעב,

+בראשית ו‘+ ויהי כי החל האדם לרבוירא הכי רבה רעת האדם.

+בראשית י"א+ ויהי בנסעם מקדםהבה נבנה לנו עיר.

+בראשית י"ד+ ויהי בימי אמרפלעשו מלחמה.

+יהושע ה‘+ ויהי בהיות יהושע ביריחווחרבו שלופה בידו.

+יהושע ו‘+ ויהי האת יהושעוימעלו בני ישראל.

+שמואל אא‘+ ויהי איש אחד מן הרמתיםכי את חנה אהב והסגר רחמה.

+שמואל אח‘+ ויהי (כי) +מסורת הש"ס: [כאשר]+ זקן שמואלולא הלכו בניו בדרכו.

+שמואל אי"ח+ ויהי דוד לכל דרכו משכיל [והעמו] – ויהי שאול עוין את דוד.

+שמואל בז‘+ ויהי כי ישב המלך בביתורק אתה לא תבנה הבית.

 

Vayehi in the days of Ahashverosh (Esther 1:1) there was Haman.

Vayehi in the days when the judges judged (Ruth 1:1) there was a famine.

Vayehi when man began to multiply (Genesis 6:1) then God Saw that the wickedness of man was great.

Vayehi, as they journeyed east (Genesis 11:20) then they said, come let us build a city.

Vayehi in the days of Amrafel (Genesis 14:1) then they made war.

Vayehi when Joshua was in Jericho (Joshua 5:13) then his [the angel’s] sword was drawn in his hand.

And the Lord was [vayehi] with Joshua (Joshua 6:27) then the children of Israel trespassed.

Vayehi a certain man of Ramataim-Zophim (I Samuel 1:1) then, for he loved Hannah but the Lord had shut up her womb.

Vayehi when Shmuel was old (I Samuel 8:1) then, his sons walked not in his ways.

And David had [vayehi] great success in all his ways (I Samuel 18:14) then, And Saul had enmity with David.

Vayehi when the king dwelt in his house (II Samuel 7:1) then, Nevertheless you shall not build the house.

 

והכתיב +ויקרא ט‘+ ויהי ביום השמיני, ותניא: אותו היום היתה שמחה לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא כיום שנבראו בו שמים וארץ, כתיב הכא ויהי ביום השמיני, וכתיב התם +בראשית א‘+ ויהי (בקר) +מסורת הש"ס: [ויהי ערב ויהי בקר]+ יום אחד! – הא שכיב נדב ואביהוא.

 

But is it not written, Vayehi on the eighth day (Leviticus 9:1), and it has been taught: On that day there was joy before the Holy One, blessed be He, as on the day when heaven and earth were created. For it is written, And it came to pass [vayehi] on the eighth day, and it is written there, And there was [vayehi] one day?

Nadav and Avihu died on that day.

 

The Talmud now begins with a series of cases that seem exceptional. The word "vayehi" is used in the story about the day that the Tabernacle was first set up in the wilderness. There is a tradition based on the very word "vayehi" that says that that day was as joyous as the creation of heaven and earth. So how can we say that "vayehi" is a portent of bad things to come?

The answer is that on the same day that the Tabernacle was established, Nadav and Avihu died.

והכתיב +מלכים או‘+ ויהי בשמונים שנה וארבע מאות שנה!

והכתיב +בראשית כ"ט+ ויהי כאשר ראה יעקב את רחל!

והכתיב ויהי ערב ויהי בקר יום אחד! והאיכא שני, והאיכא שלישי, והאיכא טובא!

 

But is it not written, "Vayehi in the four hundred and eightieth year" (I Kings 6:1), "Vayehi when Jacob saw Rachel" (Genesis 29:1), and it is also written, "Vayehi was evening and there was morning one day" (Genesis 1:5), and there is the second day and the third, and there are many other cases?

 

The Talmud now cites many other verses that use the word "vayehi" but do not have any portents of evil!

 

אמר רב אשי: כל ויהיאיכא הכי, ואיכא הכי.

ויהי בימי אינו אלא לשון צער. חמשה ויהי בימי הוו: ויהי בימי אחשורוש, ויהי בימי שפט השפטים, ויהי בימי אמרפל, +ישעיהו ז‘+ ויהי בימי אחז, +ירמיהו א‘+ ויהי בימי יהויקים.

 

R. Ashi replied: In all cases, vayehi sometimes has this signification and sometimes not, but "vayehi in the days of" always indicates trouble.

Five times we find the expression: "Vayehi in the days of Ahashverosh" "Vayehi in the days when the Judges judged", "Vayehi in the days of Amrafel" "Vayehi in the days of Ahaz" (Isaiah 7:1) "And it came to pass in the days of Yehoiakim" (Jeremiah 1:3).

 

R. Ashi resolves the difficulty by distinguishing between appearances of the word "vayehi" alone and as part of the phrase "Vayehi in the days of." The former has no determined significance but the latter is always a portent of bad things to come. There are only five such cases in the entire Bible and indeed in each case evil things are to come.