In Tosfos of Avodah Zarah 2b it asks why is Persia mentioned as being more important than Bavel since Bavel is called a lion and Persia is called a bear. A lion is much stronger than a bear. Tosfos answers that really a bear is more brazen and is sly (has tricks) that’s why Persia is considered more important. The Tosfos goes on to quote a gemara in berachos 13a which I don’t undertsand.

Does anyone know what this means:

"וי"ל דאע"ג דארי מלך מ"מ דוב הוא עז יותר ובעל תחבולות כדאמר בפרק קמא דברכות (דף יג.) גבי צרות האחרונות משכחות הראשונות הניח מעשה ארי וספר מעשה דוב "

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    It's a Mashal how we're going to "forget" galus mitzraim when Mashiach comes, because we went through a lot worse, like when a person's saved from a lion, he talks about it all day. Then when a person's saved from a bear, he doesn't mention the lion anymore because being saved from a bear is more impressive. Jan 30, 2017 at 20:18
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    "A lion is much stronger than the bear." ?? Looking around on the Web, it seems that that being true depends on the type of bear and type of lion, with adult weight being the deciding factor. The grizzly is larger and stronger than a black bear--so a grizzly would be stronger than a lion, but a black bear would be weaker, on the average. African lions are larger than mountain lions, so a large black bear might be stronger than a small mountain lion. No matter what, I wouldn't want to be nearby during the contest--"Why are we fighting when we could be sharing a meal?"
    – Gary
    Jan 31, 2017 at 4:07
  • Perhaps it's needless to say that the real relative powers of these animals is not really the point. The original question was just what Tosafos is saying.
    – Chaim
    Feb 1, 2017 at 13:03

1 Answer 1


Our gemara, at Berachos 13a, is discussing the possibility that the future redemption of the Jews will dwarf the long-ago exodus from Egypt. It remarks that if someone were endangered by (and then saved from) first a wolf, then a lion, then a snake, each attack would make previous attacks seem not worth the mention. In other words, during the time between the first attack and the second, the first attack would be an interesting story; but once a later and more remarkable danger had been braved, the earlier and relatively minor danger would not be worth mentioning.

Tosafos at Avodah Zarah 2b is not interested in the actual subject matter of this gemara at Berachos 13a, the redemptions of the Jewish people. He is just pointing out the opinion, which the gemara takes for granted, that the three types of animals are listed from least dangerous to most dangerous. And it appears that Tosafos' version of this gemara in Berachos lists the third animal as bear, not snake, as remarked-upon in the Mesoras Ha Shas at Berachos 13a.

Tosfaos at Avodah Zarah 2b proceeds as follows. Unfortunately I'm not particularly curious about, or capable of, correct voweling of the Hebrew. But here's how I would say it.

Veyeish loimar               One could say
de af al gav de ari melech   that although the lion is a king
mikol makoim                 nonetheless
doiv hu az yoiseir           the bear is stronger
uba'al tachvulois            and shrewd
kedeamar beperek kama        as is said in the first chapter
deberachois (daf 13)         of Tractate Berachos (page 13)
gabei tzarois ha-acharoinois concerning later troubles
mishkachois                  which cause one to forget
harishoinois                 the earlier ones,
haniach                      so that one would omit
ma'aseh ari                  the episode of the lion
usapeir ma'aseh doiv         and tell of the episode of the bear.

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