In general, a bad decree from G-d can be overturned through repentance and davening, while a good one can never be revoked. (This is a major theme in the books of Yirmiya and Yonah, among others.)

Yet, when HaShem decreed that the 10 martyrs should be killed, when the angels pleaded in their defense, HaShem said that if anyone says another word, He will destroy the entire world (paraphrased from the piyut in Yom Kippur Mussaf, page 590 in the Artscroll Machzor). Why is this case different? Why wouldn’t HaShem allow their case to be argued, as in other decrees of evil?

Granted we see such responses in cases like HaShem refusing Moshe’s pleas to enter Eretz Yisrael, but at least in those cases it’s a simple “no.” Why here does he not only refuse their pleas but also threatens to destroy the world if they continue?

  • My theory on this has to do with a gestalt understanding of the purpose of creation. Much like Hashem had to force us to accept the Torah (because the world would never fulfill its purpose without it) and Moshe couldn't be allowed to enter Israel (Hashem told him to stop praying) the martyrs for some cosmological reason "needed" to be killed. Therefore Hashem wasn't trying to stifle debate, but was pointing out the consequences of their advocacy (that it would fundamentally alter things and therefore destroy the briyah). Not sure if there's a source for this though. Oct 1 '17 at 3:20
  • @IsaacKotlicky Sounds like you’re describing the concept of Hanhagas HaMazel. I’ll have to think about that.
    – DonielF
    Oct 1 '17 at 3:27
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    It seems difficult to ask questions on God on the basis of this dramatic passage, given that there is no evidence that it is historically accurate, and evidence to the contrary. Admittedly, the inclusion in liturgy indicates a degree of acceptance, and therefore one might wonder how it was understood by those who included it in their liturgy.
    – mevaqesh
    Oct 1 '17 at 4:15
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    This bothers you but God's response to Moses' plea, "Enough! Don't talk to me about this anymore.", you do understand?
    – Oliver
    Oct 1 '17 at 5:09
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    @IsaacKotlicky Not sure which places you are referring to. If you are referring to places of greater veracity than a questionable Midrash, consider editing them into the OP to strengthen the question.
    – mevaqesh
    Oct 1 '17 at 14:03

Now this answer is based from inference from a different story, but I nonetheless think it's quite correct.

When דוד became king, he wanted to build the בית רשאון, however השם didn't let him. His son שלמה would do it instead. Why was this? Because דוד was such a צדיק that השם wouldn't of destroyed the בית המקדש when he was in anger, and rather he would of destroyed all of עם ישראל. Destroying the בית המקדש was a כפרה, and if that כפרה was unattainable, עם ישראל would've been destroyed in its stead.

The same logic follows here. When the 10 צדיקים were decreed to be killed, it was a כפרה for the עולם! (The death of a צדיק atones for the sins of a generation.) without such כפרה the world would be destroyed! Therefore when all the מאלכים where praying, השם told them, if their תפילות were accepted and the 10 צדיקים kept alive, the world would be destroyed in their place!

This was not a threat, and השם was not so angry He didn't want anyone to even pray for the צדיקים. Rather, He told the מאלכים a statement of fact: The world requires כפרה, and if they don't get it in this way, that's the end!


See https://www.sefaria.org/Menachot.29b.3-5?lang=bi

אמר רב יהודה אמר רב בשעה שעלה משה למרום מצאו להקב"ה שיושב וקושר כתרים לאותיות אמר לפניו רבש"ע מי מעכב על ידך אמר לו אדם אחד יש שעתיד להיות בסוף כמה דורות ועקיבא בן יוסף שמו שעתיד לדרוש על כל קוץ וקוץ תילין תילין של הלכות אמר לפניו רבש"ע הראהו לי אמר לו חזור לאחורך הלך וישב בסוף שמונה שורות ולא היה יודע מה הן אומרים תשש כחו כיון שהגיע לדבר אחד אמרו לו תלמידיו רבי מנין לך אמר להן הלכה למשה מסיני נתיישבה דעתו חזר ובא לפני הקב"ה אמר לפניו רבונו של עולם יש לך אדם כזה ואתה נותן תורה ע"י אמר לו שתוק כך עלה במחשבה לפני אמר לפניו רבונו של עולם הראיתני תורתו הראני שכרו אמר לו חזור [לאחורך] חזר לאחוריו ראה ששוקלין בשרו במקולין אמר לפניו רבש"ע זו תורה וזו שכרה א"ל שתוק כך עלה במחשבה לפני

Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: When Moses ascended on High, he found the Holy One, Blessed be He, sitting and tying crowns on the letters of the Torah. Moses said before God: Master of the Universe, who is preventing You from giving the Torah without these additions? God said to him: There is a man who is destined to be born after several generations, and Akiva ben Yosef is his name; he is destined to derive from each and every thorn of these crowns mounds upon mounds of halakhot. It is for his sake that the crowns must be added to the letters of the Torah.

Moses said before God: Master of the Universe, show him to me. God said to him: Return behind you. Moses went and sat at the end of the eighth row in Rabbi Akiva’s study hall and did not understand what they were saying. Moses’ strength waned, as he thought his Torah knowledge was deficient. When Rabbi Akiva arrived at the discussion of one matter, his students said to him: My teacher, from where do you derive this? Rabbi Akiva said to them: It is a halakha transmitted to Moses from Sinai. When Moses heard this, his mind was put at ease, as this too was part of the Torah that he was to receive.

Moses returned and came before the Holy One, Blessed be He, and said before Him: Master of the Universe, You have a man as great as this and yet You still choose to give the Torah through me. Why? God said to him: Be silent; this intention arose before Me. Moses said before God: Master of the Universe, You have shown me Rabbi Akiva’s Torah, now show me his reward. God said to him: Return to where you were. Moses went back and saw that they were weighing Rabbi Akiva’s flesh in a butcher shop [bemakkulin], as Rabbi Akiva was tortured to death by the Romans. Moses said before Him: Master of the Universe, this is Torah and this is its reward? God said to him: Be silent; this intention arose before Me.

What does it mean "this intention arose before me"?

The meforshim (can't remember who, off hand) explain as follows:

We learn:


אֵ֣לֶּה תוֹלְד֧וֹת הַשָּׁמַ֛יִם וְהָאָ֖רֶץ בְּהִבָּֽרְאָ֑ם בְּי֗וֹם עֲשׂ֛וֹת יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶ֥רֶץ וְשָׁמָֽיִם׃

Such is the story of heaven and earth when they were created. When the LORD God made earth and heaven—



ברא אלהים GOD [AS JUDGE] CREATED — It does not state 'ברא ה “The Lord (the Merciful One) created, because at first God intended to create it (the world) to be placed under the attribute (rule) of strict justice, but He realised that the world could not thus endure and therefore gave precedence to Divine Mercy allying it with Divine Justice. It is to this that what is written in (Genesis 2:4) alludes — “In the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven”.

This means to say that the level of strict judgement that was applied to Rabbi Akiva and his associates was the level of strict judgement that the world as a whole could never have survived, but that could be accepted by Rabbi Akiva and his associates.

Hence were this level of judgement not have been able to be accepted by anyone at all the initial justification for the creation of the world would have fallen away and the world would have been destroyed.

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