Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Excuses, Excuses

רב פפא איקלע לבי רב הונא בריה דרב איקא, אייתו לקמייהו שמן והדס, שקל רב פפא בריך אהדס ברישא והדר בריך אשמן. אמר ליה: לא סבר לה מר הלכה כדברי המכריע? - אמר ליה, הכי אמר רבא: הלכה כבית הלל. ולא היא, לאשתמוטי נפשיה הוא דעבד

On :ברכות מ"ג, the גמרא mentions an encounter between רב פפא and רב הונא the son of רב איקא. After proving that one follows the opinion of בית שמאי regarding the order of ברכות for smelling oil and myrtle brought to the table at the same time, the סתם relates that רב פפא does not follow the opinion of בית שמאי and blesses the הדס before the שמן. The גמרא then says that רב פפא responded by quoting רבא who says we follow the opinion of בית הלל. The סתם then concludes that רב פפא was merely making an excuse for his actions.

What I find striking is that to get out of the problem of which opinion to follow, the final statement of the סתם is to do away with the quotation of רבא instead of further grappling with the problem. Furthermore, I would be surprised that רב פפא would have been so flippant and made such a statement unless he thought it to be true. In other words, perhaps רב פפא has an explanation for following בית הלל that we don’t know about and the סתם doesn’t want us to know about for whatever reason.

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