Sunday, April 17, 2005

3 "proofs" for HaTov V'HaMeitiv being non-biblical

Every time we bentsch, we say four blessings. The first three are “biblical (though the מדרש if I recall does attribute the second and third ברכות to non-תורה figures, namely יהושע and דוד).” The fourth, according to a few places so far in the 6th and 7th פרקים, is not biblical. On :ברכות מ"ו.- מ"ו, the גמרא presents three Amoraic “proofs” for the non-biblical aspect of הטוב והמטיב.

אמר רב יוסף: תדע דהטוב והמטיב לאו דאורייתא - שהרי פועלים עוקרים אותה. אמר רב יצחק בר שמואל בר מרתא משמיה דרב: תדע דהטוב והמטיב לאו דאורייתא - שהרי פותח בה בברוך ואין חותם בה בברוך. כדתניא: כל הברכות כולן פותח בהן בברוך וחותם בהן בברוך חוץ מברכת הפירות, וברכת המצוות, וברכה הסמוכה לחברתה, וברכה אחרונה שבקריאת שמע; יש מהן שפותח בהן בברוך ואין חותם בברוך, ויש מהן שחותם בהן בברוך ואין פותח בברוך. והטוב והמטיב פותח בברוך ואין חותם בברוך, מכלל דברכה בפני עצמה היא. ואמר רב נחמן בר יצחק: תדע דהטוב והמטיב לאו דאורייתא - שהרי עוקרין אותה בבית האבל. כדתניא: מה הם אומרים בבית האבל? ברוך הטוב והמטיב; רבי עקיבא אומר: ברוך דיין האמת

The first proof is, according to רב יוסף, that workers may fulfill the requirement for ברכת המזון without including the 4th ברכה. The second proof is that הטוב והמטיב begins with a ברכה but doesn’t end with one. After the סתם includes a digression to quote for us the nature of ברכות, namely that all except certain cases have a ברכה פתיחה and a ברכה חתימה, it then provides a third proof, that הטוב והמטיב is not said in a בית אבל.

I have a few questions about this piece:

1. Does הטוב והמטיב not having an end ברכה prove it is not biblical, or is that proof merely as a result of it being compared with the ברכת המזון?
2. Is the ability to uproot the ברכה proof that it is not biblical or is that the result, the פסק, because it is not biblical?
3. Isn’t it obvious that הטוב והמטיב shouldn’t have a biblical status if the attribution of the ברכה is ביתר, which would place this ברכה post אנשי כנסת הגדולה, the group seen as the final arbiter regarding תפילה and ברכות?
4. Who else thinks the symmetry of רבי עקיבא to the discussion of הטוב והמטיב is somewhat interesting? If הטוב והמטיב is attributed to the fall of ביתר, then perhaps this might open up a new way to understand why רבי עקיבא says דיין אמת in a בית אבל.

3 Comments:

At Sunday, 17 April, 2005, Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

3. Isn’t it obvious that הטוב והמטיב shouldn’t have a biblical status if the attribution of the ברכה is ביתר, which would place this ברכה post אנשי כנסת הגדולה, the group seen as the final arbiter regarding תפילה and ברכות?

The problem is that חז"ל were very hazy and confused when it came to historical dating. That I why I consider the terms דאורייתא and דרבנן largely to be Rabbinic evaluations of how important a particular מצוה is in the Rabbinic system, and not historical/chronological judgments about when a particular הלכה was first instituted.

In terms of ביתר-- I'm pretty sure that this whole idea, that הטוב והמטיב was instituted after the dead of ביתר were buried, is a historical fiction, a Rabbinic fantasy. Do we have any non-Rabbinic (or even early Rabbinic) source for the "fact" that the dead of ניתר were left unburied?

4. Who else thinks the symmetry of רבי עקיבא to the discussion of הטוב והמטיב is somewhat interesting? If הטוב והמטיב is attributed to the fall of ביתר, then perhaps this might open up a new way to understand why רבי עקיבא says דיין אמת in a בית אבל.

Hmm. The fall of Bethar was in 135 CE, and R. `Aqiva was executed (apparently) in the same year. For how long were the dead of Bethar supposedly left exposed? If הטוב והמטיב was instituted after the burial of these dead, why would R. `Aqiva be involved in a discussion concerning this ברכה?

And if you should say that indeed, הטוב והמטיב was instituted after the fall of Bethar, perhaps R. `Aqiva's statement about דיין האמת orginally had nothing to do with the discussion in the בָּרַייְתָא, but was merely his opinion regarding a fourth ברכה that was to be added in a house of mourning to the three usually recited.

 
At Sunday, 17 April, 2005, Blogger Bryan said...

Mar Gavriel, just a personal note. I happen to agree with much you say about rabbinic language, such as use of דאורייתא and דרבנן and I am also very much in agreement about attribution being historical fiction in most cases. However, perhaps we need to reevaluate the needs to make such attributions and uses of language.

 
At Sunday, 17 April, 2005, Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Hmm, Bryan. There's a topic for a doctoral dissertation lurking somewhere in there:

Why did the Sages feel the desire to historicize their own halakhic system, even though they had a poor sense of history? Did other groups of lawmakers, either in other Jewish societies or in gentile societies, feel this same desire?

 

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