Thursday, April 07, 2005

Getting involved in other's arguments

I would like to highlight the interesting story from yesterday’s דף, ל"ז.

On ל"ז., there is a story involving רבן גמליאל and רבי עקיבא:

ומעשה ברבן גמליאל והזקנים שהיו מסובין בעלייה ביריחו, והביאו לפניהם כותבות ואכלו, ונתן רבן גמליאל רשות לרבי עקיבא לברך. קפץ וברך רבי עקיבא ברכה אחת מעין שלש. אמר ליה רבן גמליאל: עקיבא, עד מתי אתה מכניס ראשך בין המחלוקת! אמר לו: רבינו, אף על פי שאתה אומר כן וחבריך אומרים כן, למדתנו רבינו: יחיד ורבים הלכה כרבים.

Loosely translated: רבן גמליאל and the elders were eating together in an upstairs chamber in Jericho.[1] A plate of dates are brought out for the group to eat. After eating, רבן גמליאל chooses רבי עקיבא to lead the group in blessing G-d for the dates. רבי עקיבא says the ברכה מעין שלש (the abridged Grace after meals). רבן גמליאל becomes unhappy over this and says to רבי עקיבא, “Since when do you get involved in other people’s arguments (implying that רבי עקיבא was not following the custom of the host).” רבי עקיבא responds to רבן גמליאל, “Even though you say one thing (to recite the whole ברכת המזון for the 7 species of food from Israel) and the חברים (the rabbis) say something different (to say ברכה מעין שלש), we don’t follow you because we have a principle; one opinion versus the majority, the law follows the majority.

The גמרא then continues to discuss the מחלוקת between רבן גמליאל and the רבנן.

When looking at this story, I am struck by the seeming lack of respect for רבן גמליאל. He asked רבי עקיבא to lead the ברכה אחרונה. Instead of רבי עקיבא declining out of respect for רבן גמליאל, because it becomes obvious that רבי עקיבא does not follow רבן גמליאל, we see רבי עקיבא blatantly disregarding his host’s feelings.

However, רבי עקיבא’s action is consistent with following the majority. Being that the guest list at the meal included רבי עקיבא, רבן גמליאל and other elders at the meal, the majority of people at the meal did not follow רבן גמליאל’s opinion.

I guess one lesson from this is that in communal settings, a person needs to curb one’s intuition in order “keep the peace.” However, in the realm of ברכות and תפילה, when acting as an individual, it is fine to follow one’s own thinking (I would distinguish these rules from the discussion of calendar setting which we find in מסכת ראש השנה).

[1] If anyone knows why this detail of where they are eating is important, please share it.


At Thursday, 07 April, 2005, Blogger DKP said...

Another question is whether Raban Gamliel would have been upset if R. Akiva did what he did privately.

At Thursday, 07 April, 2005, Blogger Bryan said...

Would R. Aqiva have said anything if the two of them were alone to start?

At Thursday, 07 April, 2005, Blogger DKP said...

Upon further reflection, my intuition is that it wasn't necessarily the communal aspect, but rather that both the rabbanan and Raban Gamliel were present together. If Raban Gamliel weren't there, I doubt he would have had a problem.
However, even though I'd rather not read the sugya this way, its a little too easy to read it together with today's daf, 38b. With the story of bar r. zevid, who is explained by the Stam as not wanting to get into a machloket.
Though I'd like to get some other opinions as to whether or not the Stam is praising or just explaining him.


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