Friday, May 06, 2005

How רבי might make a mistake.

On 3b, רב חייא is said to have chastised רב for asking רבי about something he wasn’t currently involved in. The claim is that if it weren’t for רבי being a גברא רבה, a great person, he might have made a mistake and given the wrong answer.

אמר ליה רבי חייא לרב: בר פחתי! לא אמינא לך: כי קאי רבי בהא מסכתא לא תשייליה במסכתא אחריתי, דילמא לאו אדעתיה. דאי לאו דרבי גברא רבה הוא - כספתיה, דמשני לך שינויא דלאו שינויא הוא. השתא מיהת שפיר משני לך. דתניא: היה טעון אוכלין ומשקין מבעוד יום והוציאן לחוץ משחשיכה - חייב, לפי שאינו דומה לידו.

רש"י says the concern is that רבי’s heart might not be involved in the area of the question and he might be embarrassed is he was found wrong.[1] This would be an example of how the completion of the משנה by רבי didn’t the writing down of our משניות. If the tradition is oral, it makes sense why one’s specific involvement in the subject would be needed. If someone is not involved in a subject, it was not so simple as looking something up in a book. Even a great person like רבי, if his heart isn’t in it, might make a mistake.

[1] ד"ה לא תשייליה


At Friday, 06 May, 2005, Blogger Mar Gavriel said...


Would you say that today, now that we have books, the halakha has changed along with the מְצִיאוּת, such that it is now no lnger forbidden to ask someone a question about a מסכת that she or he is not currently studying?

At Friday, 06 May, 2005, Blogger Bryan said...

I think that we take for granted how much a person knows and often ask questions a person would have almost no clue how to answer.

At Friday, 06 May, 2005, Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

...and therefore, what מוּסָר (if not halokho) can we learn from the anecdote on Shabbos 3b?

At Friday, 06 May, 2005, Blogger Bryan said...

Well, other than human fallibility, we might learn that we who are asked questions should be willing to admit when we don't really know. Better to be unsure because of lack of knowledge than to give a false answer.

But then again, since that seems like the typical mussar haskel, we might want to think of other alternatives. For example, could this be a way of teaching that if people aren't really involved in something, they might want to think twice before saying anything.

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