Monday, May 02, 2005

Spitting (a חקירה) and R. Roth on עת לעשות

Two points:

1) On yesterday's daf (62b), there was a discussion of whether or not one could spit in a synagogue. At one point, the Stam was arguing that if the prohibition of spitting in the מִקְדָּשׁ was based on a קל וחמר from קפנדריא (using the area as a shortcut-path), then it should be forbidden in shul, where קפנדריא is forbidden. However, if spitting in the מִקְדָּשׁ was forbidden on the basis of a קל וחמר from wearing shoes, then it might be permitted in shul, where shoe-wearing is permitted. The Stam then quotes a barraitha in which the Tanna Qamma derives spitting from shoe-wearing, whereas R. Yosé b. Yehuda derives it from שַׂק (torn clothing). According to R. Yosé b. Yehuda, should spitting be permitted in a synagogue? He derives the prohibition of שַׂק in the Temple from the prohibition against wearing it in the royal court of the Persian Emperor, mentioned in מגילת אסתר. Thus, the question of whether or not R. Yosé b. Yehuda would allow spitting in shul depends on how we view the sanctity of the בית כנסת. If we view it as having the status of a king's court, as the Temple did, then R. Yosé b. Yehuda would forbid spitting; if we view it as having a conceptually different kind of sanctity, then he would permit spitting.

Two disclaimers:

a) This has been a חקירה, and I think that for the most part, חקירות are historically worthless. The whole barraitha was about the prohibition of spitting in the Temple, and R. Yosé b. Yehuda did not say anything about the issue of spitting in shul. Therefore, we cannot know what he would have said about the issue. However, I think that חקירות can be good as springboards for homiletical derasha, and this one can serve as good material for someone who wants to darshen in a shul on Shabbos morning about the difference between the sanctity of the Temple and the sanctity of the synagogue. Shabbath בְּהַר סִינַי, whose Torah reading contains the line את מקדשי תיראו, is coming up in two weeks; whoever wants to use my חקירה in a devar torah may do so, provided that he or she credit “Mar Gavriel from RTD” as its originator. (RTD = Reclaiming the Daf.)

b) I believe in paskening הלכה למעשה not from random Tannaitic statements preserved in a barraitha, but from the מסקנא of the Bavli. Therefore, this whole discussion about the view of R. Yosé b. Yehuda is irrelevant to me in terms of הלכה למעשה, because the last authority quoted in the סוגיא is Rava, and he is not refuted. Rava argues that spitting and shoe-wearing are permitted in shul, just as one would allow them in one’s house; however, קפנדריא is forbidden, because one would not allow it in one’s house. Rava’s view is apparently the מסקנא of the Bavli, and therefore is theoretically the הלכה. Why do I say theoretically? Because I am allowing room for the argument that today, social situations have changed, such that just as we might not tolerate spitting in our house, we should not tolerate it in shul. However, in order to make this argument, one would still need to accept the legal authority of Rava’s statement, and merely argue that because of extra-legal factors, it is no longer applicable.

2) Today’s daf, 63a, contained a discussion of the verse עת לעשות ליי הפרו תורתך. In R. Joel Roth’s book The Halakhic Process: A Systemic Analysis, on pp. 169-176, there is a discussion of the application of the principle of עת לעשות, which might be interesting to the readers of this blog.

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