Thursday, April 21, 2005

חג שמח

I would also like to wish all my fellow writers and those who read this blog a happy and kosher Passover. May all your preparations be filled with שלום בית and may your פסח סדר be meaningful.

Go Yalta!!

In the Talmud, its very tough finding proto-feminist heroes, but in yesterday's daf we find a story that can be interpreted (or reinterpreted?) as challenging the dominant patriarchy. After being denied the ability to drink from a kos shel berakhah because she is told by her husband Ulla that a baby receives blessing only from the father and not from the mother, she breaks many barrels of wine. When Ulla tries to condescendingly placate her, she refuses to be appeased.
I think its possible to read Yalta as reacting to the assumption that women can only be blessed through child bearing, compounded by the assumption that this blessing itself is not due to their own merits. Similarly, she finds Ulla condescending when he tries to pretend that another barrel of wine is just like a kos shel berakhah.
I realize that it's right before Pesach (and my wife and I have a lot of cooking and cleaning to do together), but I'd like some more reactions about how they read the narrative. Also, I'm sure some Talmudist must have written an article discussing this narrative. Any bibliographical info would also be helpful.
Hag Sameah.

חג שמח

Hi, people.

I'm way too tired to write anything substantive right now, because I'm busy preparing for יום טוב, but I wanted to wish everyone on Reclaiming the Daf a happy festival.

Mar Gavriel

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Chazering with the רי"ף

When one learns דַּף יוֹמִי, it is very easy to forget the material. However, most of us do not have enough time to chazer the whole daf after lerning it.

I have found over the last few days that it can be very useful to chazer by read through the רי"ף's summary of the סוּגְיֵי on the דַּף. Has anyone else found this to be helpful?

Mar Gavriel

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The offensive nature of defining an עם הארץ

:ברכות מ"ז provides a list of what qualifies one to be considered an עם הארץ.

תנו רבנן: איזהו עם הארץ? כל שאינו קורא קריאת שמע ערבית ושחרית, דברי רבי אליעזר, רבי יהושע אומר: כל שאינו מניח תפילין, בן עזאי אומר: כל שאין לו ציצית בבגדו, רבי נתן אומר: כל שאין מזוזה על פתחו, רבי נתן בר יוסף אומר: כל שיש לו בנים ואינו מגדלם לתלמוד תורה, אחרים אומרים: אפילו קרא ושנה ולא שמש תלמידי חכמים הרי זה עם הארץ. אמר רב הונא: הלכה כאחרים.
1. רבי אליעזר says it is a person who doesn’t recite שמע in the evening and in the morning
2. רבי יהושע says it is one who doesn’t wear תפילין
3. בן עזאי says one who doesn’t put ציצית on one’s clothing.
4. רבי נתן says an עם הארץ is one who doesn’t put a מזוזה up on the doorpost.
5. רבי נתן בר יוסף says it is one who has sons and doesn’t raise them with a Jewish education (my modern turn of phrase)
6. אחרים says it is the whole list and also includes one who might have knowledge of the sources but is not משמש תלמידי חכמים.

I find this whole list difficult, except מזוזה, because the first three are מצוות עשה שזמן גרמה, and the rest are about תלמוד תורה. This means, that at some level, women were almost automatically classified as עמי הארץ in the time of חז"ל [and even for many, until today]. Perhaps this might also be another explanation for the omission of women in the discussion of women and מנין, because they are automatically ruled out as part of the category of עם הארץ and not merely because of פריצותא.

A disturbing halakha? No, actually not.

I love the halakhic system, because it is so beautiful and symmetrical. Yet I find very ugly and asymmetrical the idea that a child can be counted for a זימון, yet a woman cannot. Especially disturbing is the view that even a young child שיודע למי מברכין can be counted. In fact, the רא"ה says that one can even count a five-year-old child.

The רא"ה says that the reason that we don't count women in a men's זימון is פריצותא.

Oh, wait: I forgot. Women have an obligation to make their own זימון. Presumably, a young girl שיודעת למי מברכין could count in a women's זימון, just as a young boy שיודע למי מברכין can count in a men's זימון.


I see that our blog has become prominent enough to receive comments by people who apparently have no interest in Talmud or religion.

Keith Pfeffer,, recently posted the following strange response to one of my postings on women and zimmun:

Comrade Chairman! I must protest! The woman is an enemy of the state - and the daughter of an enemy to the state.


Shiltei Haggibborim on צֵירוּף

Joshua Bo`az mi-Beith Barukh, the guy who put the עין משפט - נר מצוה on the page of the Gemara, also wrote a commentary on the רי"ף known as שלטי הגבורים (printed on the outside margin of the רי"ף pages in the back of the Vilna ש"ס.)

I wish to share a fascinating text from the שלטי הגבורים with you.

On 33a of the רי"ף pages, note ב, the שלטי הגבורים writes:

ר"ת ורבינו שמחה כתבו דאשה ועבד מצטרפין לזימון עשרה ורוב הפוסקים נחלקו עליהם ולדברי רבינו יהודה מצטרפין לג' ואי חמיר עשרה יותר מג' כמו שכתב ר"י נמצא דמ"ד דמצטרפין לשלשה ומה שיש להקשות על דברי רבינו יהודה כתבתי בספר המחלוקות בס"ד ונשים י"א דהרשות בידן לזמן בג' אם ירצו והרא"ש הוכיח דעם האנשים חובה ומיימוני כתב סתם דמזמנות לעצמן אבל לא יזמנו בשם והרא"ש כתב דמצטרפות עם האנשים לזימון בשם ור"י הכהן היה עושה הלכה למעשה להצטרף נשים לזימון ומהר"ם פליג עליו מיהו לכולי עלמא יוצאות בזימון האנשים אלא דפליגי אם צריכות שיבינו לשון הקדש או לאו יש אומרים דצריכות להבין אותו לשון ויש אומרים דאינו צריך והכי נמי פליגי בסופר מברך ובור יוצא אם צריך שיבין לשון הקדש או לאו.

1) What does דמ"ד stand for? דְּמִתּוֹךְ דָּא, perhaps?

2) What does the phrase והרא"ש הוכיח דעם האנשים חובה mean?

3) Who was רבינו יהודה?

4) Is it not an interesting historical note that Rabbenu Yehuda (whoever he was) actually counted women בצירוף with men?

By the way, on Friday I think that I mentioned a certain friend of mine who always says that the line הכל מחוייבין בשימון לאתויי נשים לענין רשות קאמר in Tosofos on 45b is the most preposterous and destructive line in halakhic literature. (This fellow despises Tosofos.) I spent Shabbos with this friend, and tried to convince him that the Tosofos have a plausible read (albeit one that I do not like, because it goes against my political agenda, which is to emphasize ways in which halakha is egalitarian). But he would hear none of this.

More on Women and Minyan

In a discussion which spills over from the bottom of yesterday's daf (47) onto today's (48), the Bavli deals with whether nine men + X can count in a minyan (either for זימון בשם, i.e. zimmun including God's name Eloheinu, or for תפילה). There are various suggested Xs: an ארון (presumably a synagogal ark containing Torah scrolls, not just any old closet), a slave, a child, and (strangest of all) the Sabbath. (Some of these are suggested in the context of minyan, and some in the context of a three-person zimmun.)

Interestingly, the idea that nine men + one woman could count as a minyan is not raised. I have three possible explanations for this:

1) Women are so unimportant in the eyes of the Sages that is is obvious that a woman can't count as the tenth in a minyan.
............1a) קושיא on this interpretation: See מנחות מג: - מד, where we find the statment that עבד זיל טפי, a slave is even lower than a woman.

2) Women do, in fact, count in the minyan לכתחילה, and therefore, there is no need to ask whether a woman can count as the tenth member of the minyan.

...........2a) קושיא on this interpretation: what, then, does מאה נשי כתרי דמיין mean? Didn’t the Tosofos on 45b explain it as being לענין קבוץ תפילה ולענין כל דבר שבעשרה?

.........................2c) תירוץ: The statement מאה נשי כתרי דמיין could be not a statment of halakha, but a statement of the social reality of the time of חז"ל: women don't have חשיבותא. (I heard this from my friend NG, who based in on the ריטב"א. Yet he still won't count women in zimmun or minyan!)

3) Theoretically, women could count in the minyan, but we don't allow them to, because of פריצותא.

.................3a) That's the stupidest thing that you have said so far! If this were the case, the Bavli would have brought up the הוה אמינא that a woman could be counted. We would have expected something like ואימא אתתא! שאני אתתא, דמשום פריצותא לא מצטרפא.

Ultimately, the answer is: I don't know. I currently do not count women in the minyan לכתחילה, but בשעת הדחק, I will davven at WLSS (Women's League Seminary Synagoge), and respond to דברים שבקדושה.

I should now like to open the floor to discussion . . . !

By the way, how did Fresh Samantha's community blog שיעור go yesterday?

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.