Berachos 10a
Eretz Tzvi - Masechta Berachos 10a

What did Beruria advise her husband, R. Meir?

The gemora in Berachos 10a says that there were some lowlifes in the neighborhood of R. Meir who caused him a great deal of distress, and consequently R. Meir prayed that they should die. His wife Beruria said to him: What are you thinking - because it says “Let the חטאים cease from the land” (Tehillim 104:35)? Does it say חוטאים - sinners? It says חטאים - sins! Furthermore, look at the end of the posuk “and the wicked will be no more” - once the sinners cease to exist obviously there will be no more wicked people! Instead, pray for them that they should repent and then the wicked people will be no more. He prayed for them and they repented.

Beruria argues from the end of the posuk “and the wicked will be no more” that R. Meir’s understanding must be incorrect, because if the beginning of the posuk means that the sinners should cease to exist then obviously the wicked will be no more, and thus the posuk is being needlessly repetitious! But this argument is problematic, because even according to her own explanation that the posuk means that the sins should cease to exist - that they should repent, it is also unnecessary to state that the wicked will be no more, because once they have repented they are no longer wicked!

Another difficulty that we have with this gemora is who has ever heard of a woman advising her husband not to ask for his enemies to die? Such a woman would be so rare as to be non-existent!

But we can explain this gemora according to the Binah L’Ittim’s explanation of the teaching of Chazal in the gemora Yoma 86b “Great is repentance because it lengthens the life of a person”. It cannot mean that by repenting a person’s days are lengthened, because Chazal also teach in the gemora Avodah Zorah 17a that one who ceases from doing a sin that he was very addicted to will die. Instead it means is that Hashem extends His wrath - rather than kill them immediately He lengthens their lives so that they might repent. Thus Chazal mean that repentance is great because it lengthens the life of a person who has not yet repented so that he might repent.

According to this we can explain the phenomena that when people come to visit a very sick person and arouse him to confess his sins (say Vidui), when his wife and family hear him confessing they start to cry like one cries for someone who has already died! But behold, his illness has not changed for the worse - they are crying only because he is saying Vidui! But the explanation is that this sick person may not yet have confessed his sins and therefore Hashem is waiting for him to confess before letting him die, and so once he confesses he will immediately die. That is why they are crying.

Returning to our gemora, according to what we explained above Beruria was a woman like any other, and she too wanted her husband’s enemies dead. But she understood that even if he prays for them to die Hashem will not kill them because they might still repent. Therefore she advised him to pray that they repent and then their death will surely follow.

And she argued that this was the correct interpretation of the posuk, because according to R. Meir’s interpretation the posuk was needlessly repeating itself. Therefore the posuk must mean “Let the sins cease from the land” - by getting the wicked to repent, and then “the wicked shall be no more” - because they will die.

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