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

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Hadran Alach

Thanks, everyone, for coming!

Ethic/social beginnings in the Mishna

I’ve got to leave in a moment, but let me share the following with you right now.

Why does the Mishna begin davqa with the עני outside and the בעל הבית inside (rather than ראובן outside and שמעון inside)? Because we want to begin the Tractate with a moral/ethical issue. Similarly, Tractate Berakhoth began with the issue of is the Torah a book for rich people or a book for poor people, in other words, who is the you in the words בשכבך ובקומך: is it the עני, who dips his bread in salt at nightfall and goes straight to bed, or is it the sons of the fabulously rich Rabban Gamaliel, who come home from the bar at four in the morning?

Similarly, Dudi Goshen once pointed out that the tenth chapter of Pesahim begins (in its second sentence) ואפילו עני שבישראל לא יאכל עד שיסב, i.e. the poor should be as fancy as the rich, and ends (one mishna before the end, in what is conceptually and temporally the last mishna) אין מפטירין אחר הפסח אפיקומן, i.e. the rich should have no after-dinner revelry that any more than the poor do or can.

See you all tonight.

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.

In all your דרכים, know Him

On today's דף, Berakhoth 63a, we find the following passage in the Vilna edition:

דרש בר קפרא איזוהי פרשה קטנה שכל גופי תורה תלויין בה בכל דרכיך דעהו והוא יְיַשֵּׁר ארחותיך אמר רבא אפילו לדבר עבירה
Bar Qappara darshened [homilized?]: What small scriptural passage has all the essential points of Torah hang on it? Know him in all your דרכים, and he will straighten your path. Rava said: Even in a matter of sin.

We find a little asterisk next to this statement, which leads us to a marginal note in the מסורת הש"ס. This note is in square brackets, which means, I believe, that it is from R. Akiva Eiger. (If I am wrong, please correct me.) This note reads as follows:
אמר רב פפא היינו דאמרי אינשי גנבא אפום מחתרתא רחמנא קרי כך הוא הנוסח בע"י


Rav Pappa said: this accords with the adage that people say: a burglar about to break into [a house] calls upon God. This is the reading in the ע"י.

(I assume that ע"י stands for עין יעקב.)

A few years ago, I heard an unmemorable שיעור on the thought of Rav Kook, in which this passage was cited. The speaker pointed out that this statement, which the marginal note attributes to Rav Pappa, disagrees with Rashi's comment on Rava's statement. Rashi writes:

בכל דרכיך אפילו לדבר עבירה דעהו תן לב אם צורך מצוה הוא כגון אליהו בהר הכרמל עבור עָלֶיהָ
In all your דרכים, even to commit a transgression, know him: think about it. If it is for the purpose of a mitzvah, like Eiliyyahu on Mt. Carmel, commit the transgression.

Rashi's interpretation (which is shared by the ריטב"א) applies Rava's statement only to a very special case of transgression, a transgression that is performed for the purpose of upholding mitzvah/Torah/Jewish religion. (On Mt. Carmel, אליהו offered a sacrifice on a בָּמָה, even though it was now forbidden to offer sacrifices on בָּמוֹת. He was doing this in order to perform the קדוש השם of showing that הקדוש ברוך הוא, unlike the בעל, would consume the sacrifice.) In no way are these Rishonim giving credit to a burglar or burglaress who calls upon God to bless his or her endeavor. Apparently, these Rishonim had the text that is printed in the inside of the Vilna Gemara, without the comment about the burglar.

I decided to do some manuscript work on this passage. I found that the only full manuscripts that the Lieberman database had for tractate Berakhoth were Oxford 366, Paris 371, and a Florence manuscript. The Florence manuscript is missing everything from 60a onwards, so this left only two MSS with our page. These are the readings that they had:

ברכות סג ע"א פריז 671
דרש בר קפרא אי זו פרשה קטנה שכל גופי התורה תלויין בה שנ' בכל דרכיך דעהו והוא יישר אורחותיך ואמ' רבא לא נצרכה אלא לדבר עבירה ואמ' רב היינו דאמרי אינשי גנבא על פום איגרא רחמנ' קרי
_
ברכות סג ע"א אוקספורד 366
דרש בר קפרא אי זו היא פרשה קטנה שכל גופי תורה תלויין בה שנא' בכל דרכיך דעהו והוא יישר אורחותיך אמ' רבא לא נצרכה אלא לדבר עבירה ואמ' רבה הינו דאמרי אינשי גנבא על פום דאיגרא רחמנא קרי
_
Both MSS contain the additional statement; both read איגרא (loft or roof), rather than מחתרתא; and neither attributes the statement to Rav Pappa.
_
For some reason, the Lieberman database does not include MS Munich 95 among its witnesses to tractate Berakhoth; therefore, I needed to check the facsimile of the manuscript (which is almost unreadable). I came up with this:
_
ברכות סג ע"א מינכן 95
_
דרש בר קפרא איזהו פרשה קטנה שכל גופי תלויין בה שנ' בכל דרכיך דעהו והו' יישר ארחותיך תנו רבנן אפ' לדברי עבירה
(the word that I have transcribed as גופי might also be read as גופו)
_
So MS Munich, like רש"י and ריטב"א, does not know of the additional statement.
_
So the question remains open: does the tradition recognize any potential in the religious feelings and words of a criminal, or does it condone only sinful behavior that is performed לְשֵׁם מִצְוָה? This depends on a difference of girsa in the Bavli, and on the particular perspective that we wish to take at the particular time. (Yes, NB, our desires and perspectives do count for something in religion, especially in issues of אַגַּדְתָּא.)

צניעות vs. Tzni'es

The barraitha (בַּרַּיְיתָא) towards the bottom of 62a, איזהו צנוע? זה הנפנה בלילה במקום שנפנה ביום, teaches us something about a rabbinic view towards צניעות. This view considers צניעות to be the practice of the same behavior (at least with regard to one issue) in both public and private situations, both when people are looking and when people are not. Whether or not this is how we, as moderns, view צניעות, it is certainly important for us to familiarize ourselves with this rabbinic view.

Certainly, this is different from the view often found in contemporary Orthodoxy, that צניעות is only concerned with the way that women dress. In many cases, this latter view can lead to separate dress codes for public and private situations, or even to stringent dress codes for public situations combined with no rules at all in private situations. How many Orthodox women out there make sure to cover all sorts of parts of their bodies, and define צניעות in terms of inches and milimeters, while sleeping around in the privacy of יִחוּד, generally while in the status of נִדּוֹת! And how many men are equally involved in this hypocrisy, whether implicitly, as rabbis who encourage the "milimeter" view of צניעות, or explicitly, as Don Juans!

האידנא תמניא יומין לעוּמרא, דהיינו שבתא חדא ויומא חד

scatology

so, my younger sisters were kind of grossed out by today's daf, and i was not so excited about it, either. i guess it's all mesorah, and, just like you can't stay with the good days, you're not stuck with the bad ones, either...

Male / female in אדם הראשון

Hey, friends:

Now that the "hag that never ends" has finally ended, we are now entering "hol, glorious hol".

On 61a, we saw rabbinic discussions of the dual nature of אדם הראשון. Of course, we all know about the יצר הטוב and the יצר הרע. But it is raised in the Bavli here that there was another way in which אדם הראשון was dual: one side of him was male, and one side was female.

ויבן יי אלהים את הצלע: רב ושמואל, חד אמר פרצוף, וחד אמר זנב. בשלמא למאן דאמר פרצוף, היינו דכתיב אחור וקדם צרתני

Adonai Elohim built up the צֵלָע. Rav and Shemuel disagree about the meaning of this word. One says that it means one side/personality/image of Adam, and the other says that it means one rib of Adam. The view that it means one person[ality] of Adam makes sense, because it fits with the verse in Psalm 139, "אחור וקדם צרתני". . . .

I find this passage very interesting, not least because it recounts a myth very similar to one recounted in Plato's Symposium, 189e ff. In this passage, the character Aristophanes explains Eros (love/desire) by telling a tale that originally, people had four arms and two faces, and both male and female genitalia. (Interestingly, Aristophanes uses the word ανδρογυνος, which is the same as the rabbinic word אַנְדְּרוֹגִינוֹס, to refer to these people.) However, these people, who were very strong and mighty, insurrected against Zeus, so Zeus punished them by sending Apollo down to split the people into two halves, with genitalia on the side. Then, people would join to each other side by side, and stay in this position until one partner died, at which point the surviving partner would go find a new partner. People were thus being entirely unproductive in society. So Zeus had compassion on the humans, and switched their genitalia to the front. Now, men could fulfill their desires, and then do something productive. The girlie men would have sex with women, and then, when getting up from sex, produce babies. The macho men would have sex with other men, and then, when getting up all satisfied from sex, would do really productive things, like engage in the political life of the city. (Hey, I'm not saying this— it's Plato. And it's quite likely that Plato is being somewhat tongue-in-cheek in putting these words into the mouth of the character Aristophanes. After all, this character is based on the historical Aristophanes, who thought that politicians were the least productive members of society).

Yet I find this passage interesting also because of what it suggests about the roles of men and women in our religion. If men and women are really two פַּרְצוּפִין of one being, then how can we prevent women from learning Torah? How can men and women truly be בָּשָׂר אֶחָד if women are prevented from connected to the source of the חִיּוּת (chiyus) of our religion, the Torah itself?

Happy sefirath ha`omer,
Mar Gavriel