Sunday, March 03, 2019

Chullin 96: What does Rav Pappa mean that Shmuel's position is a matter of Tannaitic dispute?

In today's daf yomi (Chullin 96a, going on to b), Shmuel had a position that only that portion of the sciatic nerve which was over directly the spoon of the thigh was prohibited. And Rav Pappa says:
אמר רב פפא כתנאי אכלו ואין בו כזית חייב רבי יהודה אומר עד שיהא בו כזית

That is, while the Mishna did not have Rabbi Yehuda argue regarding whether one who ate a full gid hanasheh was liable, in a brayta Rabbi Yehuda does argue. And, somehow, one unspecified side of this argument lines up with Shmuel's position limiting the (Biblically) prohibited area of the gid.

Rashi explains it as follows:

אמר רב פפא כתנאי - כדמפרש ואזיל דרבנן אית להו דשמואל ורבי יהודה לית ליה דשמואל
This is indeed a faithful rendition of the conclusion of the gemara, that the side in the machlokes who holds like Shmuel is the Rabbanan (=Rabbi Meir, I think), and it is not in accordance with Rabbi Yehuda.

The gemara which follows bears the clear mark of authorship by the setama degemara. It is a derasha chain. This Tanna interprets this pasuk in this way. So how does the opponent interpret the verse? And if so, where does the first Tanna derive that law? And so on, until the game of musical chairs ends. This is a systematic approach to derashot that one often finds in the setama.

And the way it operates here is that Rabbi Yehuda requires "asher al kaf hayarech" to derive a specific law, while the Rabbanan utilize that verse for Shmuel's derasha. So, even though the specifics of the dispute between Rabbi Yehuda and the Rabbanan about eating a berya of gid less than a kezayit have little semantically to do with Shmuel's identification of the prohibited gid, it turns out that the two positions are related because of competition for the verse each is derived from.

Besides being somewhat awkward and surprising, in the sense that Rav Pappa should really have been much clearer in how these relate, there are difficulties in the derasha chain itself. In particular (96b), we have to believe that Rabbi Yehuda holds that the presence of the word achila in the pasuk indicates that it must be a kezayit, and a berya does not suffice, even though (as Tosafot points out), in all other places, one is liable for a berya (such as an ant) even less than a kezayit, and there is no indication that Rabbi Yehuda disagrees there. Tosafot's question is better than any answer. And the Rabbanan's rejoinder, that the word achila is to indicate that one is liable even if there are multiple olive measures and he only ate one is also suspect. Would one say that one is liable only if he ate all the cheilev?

My resolution of Rav Pappa is against what is explicit in the setama degemara, but I think that it makes sense. Shmuel's position is in accordance with Rabbi Yehuda, not the Rabbanan. Here is how.

If the entire gid is forbidden, then it makes sense to say that eating a berya, meaning a complete forbidden entity, makes one liable, even if that whole entity is less than a kezayit. But if you tell me that only a small portion of the entity is forbidden, one cannot label it a berya. If only the cheilev of the ant were forbidden, eating a whole ant that includes that cheilev is not berya. And eating just all that forbidden portion is also not berya.

Therefore, since Shmuel holds that only a small subsection of the gid, namely that over the spoon of the thigh, is forbidden, Rabbi Yehuda would say that there is no aspect of berya here for eating that entire forbidden entity. The forbidden part of the gid is not a complete entity in and of itself. Therefore, the Rabbanan who maintain that it is indeed a berya for less than a kezayit could not hold that only a small portion of the gid is forbidden, and argue upon Shmuel.

Friday, March 01, 2019

How could Yaakov Avinu go out at night?

A few days ago, in daf yomi (Chullin 91a), we saw that one a Torah scholar should not go out alone at night, and that this is derived from the case of Yaakov, who went out alone after his small vessels at night.

(בראשית לב, כה) ויאבק איש עמו עד עלות השחר אמר רבי יצחק מכאן לת"ח שלא יצא יחידי בלילה

As Rashi explains, they wrestled until dawn, showing that mazikin cannot harm during the day, such that he would not need shemira during the day.
מדקאמר עד עלות השחר - שמע מינה לא ניתנה רשות למזיק להזיק ביום לפיכך לא הוצרך שמירה:
מכאן לתלמיד חכם כו' - שהרי יעקב נשאר יחידי והוזק:
Someone in the shiur asked how Yaakov could go out alone at night. After all, the avot kept the entire Torah. (And, I would add, the gemara just above sort-of endorsed this idea, stating that Yosef in disguyise commanded that his brothers be able to see the bet hashechita as well as that the gid hanasheh was removed.) How could Yaakov go out alone at night, when the gemara says that a Talmid Chacham should not go out at night?

My answer is this: Where is this halacha derived from, if not this very incident! What if Yaakov tried to keep this halachah, and did not go out at night? Then, the incident would not have happened and the gemara could not have derived the halachah. In which case, Yaakov would not have known not to go alone out at night.

More than that, not going out alone at night would have created a temporal paradox which could have destroyed the entire universe! Therefore, Yaakov had no choice but to go out alone at night and subject himself to danger.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Eating a bit before megillah / maariv

Based on today's Shivti seder.

If you tell me something is assur, I want to see it in the gemara and Rishonim. Today's discussion was about snacking a bit, as opposed to eating a full meal, and how it was prohibited. I was not convinced, based on the presentation, that such a prohibition exists.

The first focus was on the first Mishna in Berachot and on the ensuing gemara on 4a-b. The Mishna set out the time for keriat Shema at night, with the Chachamim saying until midnight, and Rabban Gamliel teaching that the time is really until dawn, and even that the Chachamim who say until midnight said so as a fence.

The gemara on 4a-b elaborates on the nature of this fence by citing a brayta:

והא דקא אמרי עד חצות כדי להרחיק את האדם מן העבירה 
כדתניא חכמים עשו סייג לדבריהם כדי שלא יהא אדם בא מן השדה בערב ואומר אלך לביתי ואוכל קימעא ואשתה קימעא ואישן קימעא ואחר כך אקרא קריאת שמע ואתפלל וחוטפתו שינה ונמצא ישן כל הלילה אבל אדם בא מן השדה בערב נכנס לבית הכנסת אם רגיל לקרות קורא ואם רגיל לשנות שונה וקורא קריאת שמע ומתפלל ואוכל פתו ומברך

and the fact that they say until midnight is in order to distance a person from transgression. 
As it was taught in a baraitathe Rabbis created a “fence” for their pronouncements with regard to the recitation of Shema in order to prevent a situation where a person comes home from the field in the evening, tired from his day’s work, and knowing that he is permitted to recite Shema until dawn says to himself: I will go home, eat a little, drink a little, sleep a little and then I will recite Shemaand recite the evening prayer. In the meantime, he is overcome by sleep and ends up sleeping all night. However, since one is concerned lest he fall asleep and fail to wake up before midnight in order to recite Shema at the appropriate time, he will come from the field in the evening, enter the synagogue, and until it is time to pray, he will immerse himself in Torah. If he is accustomed to reading the Bible, he reads. If he is accustomed to learning mishnayot, a more advanced level of study, he learns. And then he recites Shema and praysas he should. When he arrives home, he eats his meal with a contented heart and recites a blessing.

While the maggid shiur presented this as a separate fence / gezeira from that of the Mishna, I think that the plain meaning of the gemara is that this is the exact same fence. As Rashi writes ad loc.,

מן העבירה - שמא יסמוך על שהות שיש לו כדתניא:

That is, Rashi explains that the Chachamim setting midnight as the end time is to distance a person from sin, for one will rely on the fact that he has time, as is written in the ensuing brayta.

If so, the fact that someone will procrastinate and eat a bit, drink a bit, nap a bit, and so on, are not new and individual prohibitions, but rather explaining what will happen if the person thinks he has time. As per Rashi, the brayta is expanding on the fence of the Mishna and saying what will happen. And by saying (and misleading? decreeing?) instead that there is a closer time, this will influence people to go to shul, learn, say Shema, daven, and only then eat a meal.

That does not indicate that the bit of eating is itself forbidden.

The source presented (in Shivti) that it was in fact forbidden was the top Tosafot on the daf:

וקורא קריאת שמע ומתפלל - מכאן משמע שמשעה שהגיע זמן קריאת שמע של לילה שאין לו לאכול סעודה עד שיקרא ק"ש ויתפלל ערבית:

But, as we noted immediately, Tosafot said le'echol seudah, to eat a meal until he reads Shema and prays Maariv. This is not necessarily the same as the ochel kim`a, eating a little bit, of earlier in the gemara.

Further, we should pay attention to the dibur hamatchil. What part of the gemara are Tosafot commenting upon when they say mikaan mashma? It seems like it is the end of the brayta, that the effect will be that someone will end up first saying Shema, then praying Maariv, and only then eating a meal. (And see the iba'it eima of the gemara that this is according to the position that davening Maariv is not something optional.) That is, it is going on ואוכל פתו, rather than the earlier ואוכל קימעא. I don't think you can derive from here a prohibition on snacking a bit. And the prohibition on a full meal is fully in line with the prohibition we saw in masechet Shabbat, about eating (a full meal) prior to keriat Shema.

I am not the only one to read closely like this. Look at the Rosh on this gemara.

When citing the gemara, he omits the final words ve'ochel pito umevarech. On the spot (note ס), we have Maadanei Yom Tov who comments:

That is, that the Rosh omitted these final words. But Tosafot were medakdek on those very words that one should not eat a meal until he read Shema and prayed. And even the Rosh agrees to this, except that here he is going after the girsa of the Rif.

We can see the words of the Rif here, and I get the same sense, that there is no innovated prohibition of eating a bit, but rather the one gezeira we are speaking of is the time of midnight:

However, this that Rabban Gamliel said {that you can say the entire night} and this that R Shimon ben Yochai said {that the night one you can fulfill right before either dawn or sunrise} is bedieved - after the fact - and even if you did so willfully {bemeizid} and read keriat Shema before dawn you will have fulfilled your obligation, even though you are not permitted to do this, for we learnt in a brayta {Berachot 4b}:
The Sages made a fence to their words in order that a man should not come from the field in the evening and say 'I will eat a bit, drink a bit, and sleep a bit, and afterwards I will read Shema and pray' and if sleep snatches him he will have slept the entire night; but rather a man should come from the field and go to the house of gathering {shul} or the house of study - if he is used to reading {Scripture} he should read, and if he is used to learning he should learn - and afterwards read the Shema and pray. And all who violate the words of the Sages is liable the death penalty.
You are not permitted to delay until after Chatzos, and the brayta is brought for elaboration. I see no indication that prohibiting eating a bit, in and of itself, was a decree from Chazal.

So too, in the Tosafot HaRosh, he says the same thing as Tosafot, that one should not begin the seudah. And I took pains to point out during the shiur that we have to pay careful attention to the dibbur hamatchil, which in this case is explicit that it includes ואוכל פתו ומברך.

I don't think that Rashi on the daf, defining terms, is a clear-cut introduction of a prohibition. He writes:

קימעא - מעט:

We should not produce from here a machlokes between Rashi and Tosafot as to what is being prohibited. Even Tosafot know what the word kimi`ah means. They aren't arguing a definition in terms. Rather, Tosafot don't see any prohibition here, just and explanation of the procrastination that the person will do. And Rashi can agree with this as well, that this is an explanation of what the person will say and do as he procrastinates, if he thinks he will have time. It is just that, entirely separate from this, Tosafot and Rosh look at other words at the end and derive a prohibition on starting an entire meal, even before Maariv.

Maybe we can see such a decree in the words of the Rambam, though.In Hilchot Tefillah 6:7, we have:
ז  אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁתְּפִלַּת הָעֶרֶב רְשׁוּת, לֹא יָבוֹא אָדָם מִמְּלַאכְתּוֹ וְיֹאמַר, אֹכַל מְעַט וְאֶשְׁתֶה מְעַט וְאִישַׁן קִמְעָה, וְאַחַר כָּךְ אֶתְפַּלַּל--שֶׁמֶּא תֶּאֱנֹס אוֹתוֹ שִׁינָה, וְנִמְצָא יָשֵׁן כָּל הַלַּיְלָה; אֵלָא מִתְפַּלֵּל עַרְבִּית, וְאַחַר כָּךְ אוֹכֵל וְשׁוֹתֶה אוֹ יִישַׁן.  וּמֻתָּר לְהִסְתַּפַּר וּלְהִכָּנֵס לַמֶּרְחֵץ, סָמוּךְ לַשַּׁחְרִית, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁלֹּא גָזְרוּ אֵלָא סָמוּךְ לַמִּנְחָה שְׁהוּא דָּבָר הַמָּצוּי, שֶׁרֹב הָעָם נִכְנָסִין בַּיּוֹם; אֲבָל בַּשַּׁחַר, דָּבָר שְׁאֵינוּ מָצוּי, לֹא גָזְרוּ בּוֹ.

However, I don't think that even this needs to be a prohibition. The brayta was explaining the reason for the gezeira of until midnight, because they feared people would do this. They were thus coralling people away from falling into this trap. And the implication is that, totally separate from this, it makes sense that one should not fall into this trap. There is the correct hanhagah, and that is what one should follow, and that is why Rambam encodes it.

Even so, I would not say that this is a gezeira, and that this is an issur deRabbanan.

The result of all of this is that I don't think that it is correct to turn around and (like the Terumas HaDashen), in places of need, such as hearing a late Megillah reading after a long fast (which Chazal would have not have held of, since it is Yom Nikanor), that there is a gezeira that one cannot nibble on something.

That is my reading of the sources, though various Acharonim apparently read this differently.

Update: Here is a lengthy Artscroll footnote on the subject, which shows how others read differently. Bli neder, I will address in a follow-up post. Note that it is Rif (as explained by the Rashba) rather than just plain Rif. The Rashba is here and the (later, meaning siman 9) Rosh is here. And Avot deRabbi Natan, illustrating how the phrase asa seyag lidvarav is used as an expression of overstating one's opinion to be more stringent than the actual law, is here.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

chamar medina, via Shivti

This morning, I attended a very interesting program at Beth Aaron with my son -- Shivta. Great egg salad and tuna, and a nice topic, namely chamar medina. First there was a chabura with the assistant rabbi, Rabbi Gabbai, and then a shiur continuing on from there by Rabbi Willig.

The presentation of Shivti in their pamphlet is a bit more elaborate than your typical shiur source sheet. The typical source sheet will have either (literal) cutouts from various gemaras and rishonim so that you see the tzuras hadaf or standard printed text from Bar Ilan. This is a combination, so that each full page is a source, in the original. So we will see the gemara in Pesachim 107a, together with Rashbam and Tosafot, in the full tzuras hadaf, with shading for what they deem the relevant material. And on the bottom, in plain printed text, just the excerpted material.

The order of presentation is also nice. It is chronological, so we start with the relevant gemara and meforshim on the daf, then on to Rosh, Rif, Rambam, and then Tur, Shulchan Aruch, and Mishnah Berurah. A few others in between. The result is that you get to see the development of the ideas and how it is fleshed out or derived from the original sources.

Rabbi Willig presented his take on the sugya and his halachic position that, nowadays, it is impossible to justify using beer or whiskey for kiddush on Shabbat morning. I cannot do it justice, so don't rely on my presentation for an accurate representation of his position. But it can only be used as a substitute (according to Rashbam) where wine or grape juice is not readily available. And according to the Rosh who cites the Rashbam and also says:

ויש מפרשים דחמר מדינה היינו עיר שאין יין גדל בתחום אותנ העיר עד כדי מהלך יום סביב לעיר

that the unavailability (due to what is grown) has to be one of a day's journey around the city limits. And meanwhile, today with airplanes, the entire world is within a day's journey. Also, whiskey and beer are very low on the list, in terms of beverages Americans drink. Water comes first, then soda, then coffee, then beer, and finally milk (maybe among kids).


My thoughts on the matter. First, as an aside, in terms of growing, it is certainly not that they did not have wine transportation back in those days. One can certainly point to gemaras of people who went into business to purchase wine in a certain locale, and then the wine prices went down or up.

In terms of understanding the Rashbam, he did not invent of whole cloth this idea of no accessible wine in that city. He gets it from the story in Pesachim 107, that the first time Ameimar came to town, he did not make havdalah on the date beer, and went to bed hungry. And the next day they made efforts and were able to bring him wine, at which point he made havdalah and tasted something. So Rashbam is looking to the unavailability as a requirement, even while other Rishonim might argue.

So too, the position some held, cited by the Rosh, of the unavailability within a day's journey, is also not surprising and without clear basis. Rather, it appears to be a clear outgrowth of the same story, that they only managed to fetch it the next day.

What about today, where every place is accessible? As Thomas Friedman wrote, The World Is Flat, and every place is accessible? I don't think that this matters a whit. Are we concerned here with lechatchila vs. bedieved, such that the only allowance to use this is where you couldn't access the wine? That is one way of looking at it, but the other is that, in terms of respectability of the beverage, this is the equivalent of wine. Where they don't grow wine in that region, and where they typically use this instead of wine, it has the chashivus of wine. That the word is more accessible and one could go further in less time does not change this from being the regular regional drink.

When Ameimar came the second time and they brought him date beer, maybe it made it clear to him that wine was not accessible in the region. Or maybe the repeating bringing for havdalah made it clear to him that they treated it as a respectable drink.

In terms of water (or soda, or coffee) being intermediately popular before whiskey or beer as national drinks, this may indeed differ by region. I would imagine there are areas of the country (like New York) that prefer their Starbucks lattes, and other, rural areas of the country that prefer their beer. Or even neighborhoods in New York.

But see Rashbam (ad loc, in fact same d.h. as before), who also says that water does not count as chamar medina. He says this in the sense that you can't use it as such, even, as he says, in the absence of wine and beer. But I would say that water also doesn't count in chashivus even to disqualify. It should be considered kemi she'eino. Among intoxicating drinks that people treat in the equivalence class of wine, beer is actually more widely consumed than wine. And who cares about water, soda or milk?

So for those who do make kiddush on chamar medina on Shabbos morning, I think there is a way to read through the sources in their defense. (I personally use wine or grape juice, because I can't really stand whiskey or beer.)

Friday, July 27, 2018

Daf Yomi: Zevachim 107 - hidden derashot

There are some awesome hidden derashot on Zevachim 107a. (I call a derash hidden if there is a surface and superficial way of reading it that seems 'light', but an alternative way of reading it with greater depth.)

הדתנן הזורק מקצת דמים בחוץ חייב מנלן
 נפקא ליה מדתניא
 דם יחשב לרבות הזורק דברי רבי ישמעאל רבי עקיבא אומר או זבח לרבות את הזורק

The 'straightforward' understanding of Rabbi Yishmael's derasha requires that we consult Rashi, who includes a later phrase from the pasuk as well (matching how they brayta appears in Sanhedrin):

דם יחשב דם שפך - לרבות את הזורק והאי קראי בשחוטי חוץ כתיבי:

That is, it is considered 'blood' guilt (liability) for spilling (throwing) blood. That is how Artscroll (footnote 16, in brackets) explains the difficult derasha.

I would suggest that the derasha simply focused on the words 'dam yechashev'. The peshat is that for **slaughtering** the sacrifice outside the Temple, it is considered bad, bloodshed, blood-guilt, shedding of blood. Rabbi Yishmael, in order to arrive at a (previously known?) halacha that throwing the blood also counts, narrowly focuses on the words 'dam yechashev' out of context (significance maximalism, context minimalism) and translates it as  'blood is also reckoned'.

What about Rabbi Akiva? His derasha is:
או זבח לרבות את הזורק

The full pasuk for Rabbi Akiva is:

וַאֲלֵהֶ֣ם תֹּאמַ֔ר אִ֥ישׁ אִישׁ֙ מִבֵּ֣ית יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וּמִן־הַגֵּ֖ר אֲשֶׁר־יָג֣וּר בְּתוֹכָ֑ם אֲשֶׁר־יַעֲלֶ֥ה עֹלָ֖ה אוֹ־זָֽבַח׃

The simple meaning is that the pasuk is talking about someone who offers a burnt offering (olah) or a sacrifice (zevach), but outside the Temple. And the simple derasha is that since it does not say 'olah u-zevach', using the 'and' conjunction, but instead adds a whole word (and an alef) to make it 'olah `o zavach', using the 'or' conjunction, this is a 'ribbuy', an inclusion. And we can use inclusions to include whatever we like which is somewhat related to the context, so we are including not just the act of bringing the korban, but also the act of sprinkling. (And so the gemara goes on the 'or' being used to divide, that one need not bring both an olah and a zevach, and then goes on a sytematic derasha chain, how each interprets the others source text.)

I would suggest an alternative understanding of the derasha. The last word in the pasuk is zevach. But since it is the last word of the pasuk, it takes on a pausal form, zavach, with a kametz, yet retaining the stress on the first syllable. With the 'and' connective, it would be clear that this is a noun, and the 'olah uzavach' are the object of 'asher yaaleh'. With the 'or' connective, the word zavach can be read as a verb instead. Namely, the past tense of 'zoveach'. Then, there are two actions. Asher = who. Yaaleh olah = brings (ascends) a burnt offering. O Zavach = or who was 'zoveach'. And this other action would then be the closely related act of 'yaaleh', namely sprinkling the blood.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

How did Chazal "know" that Bilaam committed bestiality with his donkey?

How did Chazal "know" that Bilaam committed bestiality with his donkey?

They didn't, but it is a matter of textual interpretation. As mentioned in Avodah Zarah 4b, the words

ההסכן הסכנתי

find a secondary meaning, a double-entendre if you will, of 'warming' by night. They point to the parallel by Avishag haShunamit (though there the warming was non-sexual). As Rashi explains (Bemidbar 22:30):

The she-donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your she-donkey on which you have ridden since you first started until now? Have I been accustomed to do this to you?" He said, "No." לוַתֹּ֨אמֶר הָֽאָת֜וֹן אֶל־בִּלְעָ֗ם הֲלוֹא֩ אָֽנֹכִ֨י אֲתֹֽנְךָ֜ אֲשֶׁר־רָכַ֣בְתָּ עָלַ֗י מֵעֽוֹדְךָ֙ עַד־הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֔ה הַֽהַסְכֵּ֣ן הִסְכַּ֔נְתִּי לַֽעֲשׂ֥וֹת לְךָ֖ כֹּ֑ה וַיֹּ֖אמֶר לֹֽא:
Have I become accustomed: Heb. הַהַסְכֵּן הִסְכַּנְתִּי. As the Targum [Onkelos] renders [lit., have I learned to do this?]. Similarly,“Does man learn (יִסְכָּן) for God?” (Job 22:2). Our Rabbis, however, expounded this verse in the Talmud: They [the Moabite dignitaries] said to him, “Why aren’t you riding on a horse?” He [Balaam] said to them, “I sent it out to pasture.” [Immediately, the she-donkey retorted, “Am I not your she-donkey?” He said to her, “Just for bearing burdens.” She retorted, “on which you have ridden.” He said to her, “Only on occasion.” She retorted,“since you first started until now, and not only that but I provide you with riding by day, and with intimacy at night, (interpreting Heb. הַהַסְכֵּן הִסְכַּנְתִּי as”I heated you up,") as is stated in Tractate Avodah Zarah [4b]. ההסכן הסכנתי: כתרגומו, וכן (איוב כב, ב) הלאל יסכן גבר. ורבותינו דרשו מקרא זה בגמרא אמרו ליה, מאי טעמא לא רכבת אסוסיא. אמר להון ברטיבא שדאי ליה וכו', כדאיתא במסכת עבודה זרה (ד ב):

It seems possible that they also saw a double-entendre in אֲשֶׁר־רָכַ֣בְתָּ עָלַ֗י. That explains the immediate mechanics. What about the impetus?

I can see three impetiuses.

(A) a global desire to paint bad guys negatively
(B) a local desire to expand upon, and explain, the "embarrassment" of the previous verse, in such manner as to make each subsequent phrase an explanation of the "embarrassment", in increasing order.
(C) that the donkey was executed by the angel, as detailed in another midrash; this execution was for sparing of embarrassment, and Chazal found the other instance of execution of an animal to spare embarrassment.

(A) The global desire to paint bad guys negatively

It is a general trend in midrash to take "bad-guy" Biblical characters who are, on a peshat level, painted in shades of gray, and to paint them as totally dark. We see this for Lavan, for Lot, for Esav, for Pharaoh, and so on.

Similarly, for the heroes and "good guys", even where they act in ways which seem not-so-good, the midrash will paint them and their actions as more clearly defined white-hats. And neutral statements on a peshat level will be certainly taken as accounts of praiseworthy actions.

There may be many reasons for this. (Maharatz Chajes discusses this phenomenon at length, IIRC in Iggeret Bikkoret). The purpose of these midrashim may be homiletical, to provide positive role models and vice versa, a Goofus and Gallant. It could be that Chazal are just always going to pick up on this nuanced language, and will naturally and honestly assume that these will be holding hidden condemnation or tales of good deeds. Context dictates which one, and the overall character of the person is the best context.

(B) a local desire to expand upon the "Embarrassment"

The previous verse (22:29, and Rashi) read:

Balaam said to the she-donkey, "For you have humiliated me; if I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now." כטוַיֹּ֤אמֶר בִּלְעָם֙ לָֽאָת֔וֹן כִּ֥י הִתְעַלַּ֖לְתְּ בִּ֑י ל֤וּ יֶשׁ־חֶ֨רֶב֙ בְּיָדִ֔י כִּ֥י עַתָּ֖ה הֲרַגְתִּֽיךְ:
you have humiliated: Heb. הִתְעַלַּלְתָּ. As the Targum [Onkelos] renders it, a term denoting shame and disgrace. התעללת: כתרגומו לשון גנאי ובזיון:
If I had a sword in my hand: This matter made him greatly contemptible in the eyes of the dignitaries. This man was going to kill an entire nation with his mouth, yet for this she-donkey he needed weapons!- [Mid. Tanchuma Balak 9, Num. Rabbah 20:14] לו יש חרב בידי: גנות גדולה היה לו דבר זה בעיני השרים, זה הולך להרוג אומה שלמה בפיו, ולאתון זו צריך לכלי זיין:

The word hitalalta is ambiguous, but is understood by Chazal to denote embarrassment, shame, and disgrace. We have an immediate disgrace in the very verse, namely that he did not have the ability to slay the donkey with his own mouth, but would require a weapon.

But the embarrassment and shame, on a peshat level, is that his donkey repeatedly has disregarded his directions! He cannot control his donkey, and so has smote her three times.

But then the embarrassment continues. And the donkey's conversation repeatedly exposes the lowly stature of Bilaam before the Moabite dignitaries, culminating with revelations that he regularly engaged in intimacy with his donkey.

(C) That the donkey was executed by the angel

However, I think a real key to this interpretation is to be found later in the same perek. In pasuk 33:

When the she-donkey saw me, it turned aside these three times. Had she not turned aside before me, now also I would also have killed you and spared her [the she-donkey]." לגוַתִּרְאַ֨נִי֙ הָֽאָת֔וֹן וַתֵּ֣ט לְפָנַ֔י זֶ֖ה שָׁל֣שׁ רְגָלִ֑ים אוּלַי֙ נָֽטְתָ֣ה מִפָּנַ֔י כִּ֥י עַתָּ֛ה גַּם־אֹֽתְכָ֥ה הָרַ֖גְתִּי וְאוֹתָ֥הּ הֶֽחֱיֵֽיתִי:

and spared her: But now, since she spoke and rebuked you, and you could not withstand her rebuke, as it is written, “He said, No,” therefore, I have killed her, so that [people] should not say, “This is the one that silenced Balaam with her rebuke, and he could not respond,” for the Omnipresent shows regard for human dignity. Similarly, “you shall kill the woman and the animal [through which the sin was committed]” (Lev. 20:16), and, “you shall kill the animal” (ibid. 20:15) - [Mid. Tanchuma Balak 9, Num. Rabbah 20:14] ואותה החייתי: ועתה מפני שדברה והוכיחתך ולא יכולת לעמוד בתוכחתה, כמו שכתוב (פסוק ל) ויאמר לא. על כן הרגתיה, שלא יאמרו זו היא שסלקה את בלעם בתוכחתה ולא יכול להשיב, שחס המקום על כבוד הבריות, וכן (ויקרא כ, טו - טז) ואת הבהמה תהרוגו, וכן (שם) והרגת את האשה ואת הבהמה:

The clear meaning of this midrash is that it is the embarrassment of rebuke for which the donkey here is killed.

However, Vayikra is one of two times an animal is executed. An animal who kills a person is executed, and there are even full court procedures for it, but the reason seems to be that spelled out in Bereishit 9:5, וְאַךְ אֶת-דִּמְכֶם לְנַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם אֶדְרֹשׁ, מִיַּד כָּל-חַיָּה אֶדְרְשֶׁנּוּ; וּמִיַּד הָאָדָם, מִיַּד אִישׁ אָחִיו--אֶדְרֹשׁ, אֶת-נֶפֶשׁ הָאָדָם.

The other time is the case of bestiality. Now animals are not typically deemed guilty of sin. Why should the animal be executed for sleeping with a human? This is what the midrash (above) is saying, that it is to spare the human embarrassment and preserve their dignity. The animal cannot be walking around and have people point to it and say it was Ploni's girlfriend or Plonit's boyfriend.

Once this connection had been made, it was a very short leap to say that Bilaam's female donkey was executed to spare him for embarrassment in the exactly the same way the other animal in the Torah was executed to spare someone from embarrassment. And this then guided Chazal in all the other interpretations.


Friday, March 16, 2018

Avoda Zara 60b: Falling into a vat

This is inyanei de-yoma, since this appears in today's daf, and since tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day. :)

In today's daf, we have the following:

נפל לבור ועלה: אמר רב פפא לא שנו אלא שעלה מת אבל עלה חי אסור מ"ט אמר רב פפא דדמי עליה כיום אידם: 
§ The mishna teaches that if a gentile fell into the wine collection vat and emerged, it is not prohibited to derive benefit from the wine. Rav Pappa says:The Sages taught this halakha only in a case where the gentile emerged from the vat dead. But if he emerged alive, the wine is prohibited. The Gemara asks: What is the reason that the wine is prohibited? Rav Pappa said: Sincethe gentile was rescued from death, he considers that day like their festival day, and he offers the wine as an idolatrous libation in thanksgiving.

Rashi explains Rav Pappa's reasoning as follows:

דדמי עליה כיום אידם - ואזיל ומודה על שניצל ומסתמא נסכיה בעלייתו ואסור בהנאה
That is, since he was saved, he will thank his deity, and therefore as he is pulled out of the cistern containing the wine, he will presumably libate some of the wine.

I would suggest another possibility, that since he lives, he was happy to be in the wine cistern, since he gets to enjoy the wine! And his thrashing around in there is shichshuch of someone who having a festival day.

Talking about Yom Eidem, festival days, tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day. And this story is just on point:

Old man O'Malley had worked down at the brewery for years, but one day he just wasn't paying attention and he tripped on the walkway and fell over into the beer vat and drowned. The foreman thought it should be his job to inform the Widow O'Malley of her old man's death. He showed up at the front door and rang the bell. When she came to the door, he said, "I'm sorry to tell you, but your poor husband passed away at work today when he fell into the vat and drowned." She wept and covered her face with her apron and after a time, between sobs, she asked, "Tell me, did he suffer?" "Knowing Brian O'Malley as well as I did, I don't think so," said the foreman, "He got out three times to go to the men's room."

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Do Tzfardeia Defecate?

One of my favorite midrashim is the one that Pharaoh went to the Nile to defecate, because he wanted people to think he was a god who did not have bodily functions. I like it because of the multiple derivations, some explicit and some implicit.

It is based on the pasuk in Shemot 7 which begins:

טו  לֵךְ אֶל-פַּרְעֹה בַּבֹּקֶר, הִנֵּה יֹצֵא הַמַּיְמָה

The midrash in question as it appears in Shemot Rabba:

לך אל פרעה בבקר הנה יוצא המימה 
לא היה יוצא אלא המימה [בבוקר], לפי, שאותו רשע היה משתבח ואומר שהוא אלוה ואינו יוצא לנקביו, לפיכך היה יוצא בבקר בשעה שהוא נצרך, תפוש אותו. 

It is not just that he went specifically baboker, in the morning. But "Yotzei Hamayma" perhaps has the implication of urinating, or even of defecating (yotzei) into the water (hamayma).

But at the end of the episode, there is also this gem, which clinches it:

כג  וַיִּפֶן פַּרְעֹה, וַיָּבֹא אֶל-בֵּיתוֹ

Apparently, there is a dvar Torah going around which argues for a sort of middah keneged middah regarding the second plague, of frogs. I will let Rabbi Dr. Natan Slifkin tell it:
Someone sent me an insight that they heard from a contemporary rabbi: "Because Pharaoh portrayed himself like a god by not relieving himself, G-d specifically brought frogs as the second plague, since frogs are creatures that eat and do not void their waste." Pharaoh falsely claimed to be a God who does not excrete, so he was punished with lowly creatures that really do posses this ability.

There is a problem with that, however:
I don't know how this frog drash came about. I've never heard of an ancient belief that frogs do not excrete. (Though I do often hear people asking me if snakes excrete; for some reason, people seem to think that without legs, there's no tushie.) But the fact is that frogs, like every other creature in the world, excrete their waste. How could it be otherwise? What else would they do with the parts of their food that they haven't digested?
I think I derash. First, I will point out that Rabbenu Bachya held that tzfardeia were crocodiles rather than frogs. That makes the makka pretty frightening.

Second, while I also have not heard of an ancient belief that frogs do not defecate, I have heard of an old belief that crocodiles do not defecate.

To wit, we have the following from the 1481 travel account of Meshulam de Volterra, that crocodiles lack an anal orifice and rely on birds to remove the excrement. To cite "The Rabbi and the Crocodile: Interrogating Native in the Late Quattrocento", by David Malkiel, published in Speculum,  A Journal of Medieval Studies, Volume 91, Number 1, from January 2016:

What Meshulam actually is describing is the symbiotic relationship between the Egyptian plover and the crocodile. The plover picks out the food, and at the same times cleans the crocodile's teeth. But even crocodiles defecate.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Daf Yomi, Shevuot 47

Something to consider when learning Shevuot 47.

The gemara reads:

חזרה שבועה למקומה:
להיכן חזרה א"ר אמי רבותינו שבבבל אמרו חזרה שבועה לסיני רבותינו שבארץ ישראל אמרו בחזרה שבועה למחויב לה אמר רב פפא רבותינו שבבבל רב ושמואל רבותינו שבארץ ישראל ר' אבא 

Thus, according to Rav Pappa, by "rabotainu" of Bavel, he meant Rav and Shmuel, and by "rabotainu" of E"Y, he meant Rabbi Abba, even though Rabbi Abba is just one person and even though, as Tosafot makes a diyuk from the language which says that Rabbi Abba sat before Rabbi Ammi, Rabbi Abba was a student rather than a teacher.

However, Rabbi Ami was an Amora of Eretz Yisrael (third generation). If we look at the Yerushalmi, we see Rav Hoshaya (third generation) tell Rabbi Ami this limmud.  And while the raboteinu of Bavel are left unspecified, the rabotainu of E"Y is Rabbi Yochanan citing Rabbi Yannai. These would certainly qualify as rabotainu.

דף לו, ב פרק ז הלכה ד גמרא
רב הושעיה אמר קמי ר' אמי בשם רבנין דתמן חזרה שבועה לסיני רבי יוחנן בשם רבי ינאי חזרה שבועה לבעלין.  מאן דמר חזרה שבועה לסיני כמי שאין כאן עדות המוציא מחבירו עליו הראיה ומאן דמר חזרה שבועה לבעלין ממה דהוא גברא חשוד ולא יכיל מישתבע לי 
קום שלם לי:

Further, if we look at the Tosefta (thus, a Tannaitic source) , we will find an explicit statement like the raboteinu of Bavel, together with a scriptural derivation. This could then be the source.


ו,ג  שכנגדו חשוד על השבועה כיצד זה נשבע ונוטל.  היו שניהם חשודין פטורין שנא' (שמות כב) שבועת ה' תהיה בין שניהם בזמן שאחד מהן חשוד לא בזמן ששניהן חשודין.  בין שניהם יוצא מבין שניהם אם הנשבע נשבע על שקר סוף שהשבועה חלה עליו ואם המשביע משביע על שקר סוף שהשבועה חלה עליו שנא' (זכריה ה) ולנה בתוך ביתו וכלתו בוא וראה דברים שאין האש אוכלתן שבועת שקר אוכלתן.

Rav Pappa could either be unaware of the identities, or is trying to associate certain known Amoraim of E"Y and Bavel, based on their statements elsewhere. But this involves some kvetches, and applying a principle from a different case to our local case. One could question whether they are indeed applicable. For instance, we end up having Rav and Shmuel establish a general principle of what happens when one is obligated in an oath and cannot swear, applying it then to our local case, while the Tosefta deduces from the pasuk, it for just this particular case, namely when both of them are unable to swear.

Meanwhile, these sources I mentioned are explicit in their position, rather than being a transfer from what they said elsewhere.

Another point. Towards the end of amud aleph, we see Rava's support for Rabbi Abba based on a brayta brought by Rabbi Ammi, in which they darshen the pasuk of shevuat Hashem tihyeh bein shneihem  -- velo min hayorshim:

דתני רבי אמי (שמות כב, י) שבועת ה' תהיה בין שניהם ולא בין היורשין

On the next amud, the gemara asks what the opposing position - that is, Rav and Shmuel - would do with that pasuk, since they must not hold like that brayta. And the setama degemara points us to another brayta that uses it for a quasi-homiletic purpose, namely:

ורב ושמואל האי שבועת ה' מאי קא דרשי ביה מיבעי ליה לכדתניא שמעון בן טרפון אומר שבועת ה' תהיה בין שניהם מלמד שהשבועה חלה על שניהם

We need not say this. We could say like the Tosefta, which explicitly takes this very pasuk to teach the very law in question - that only when one of them is suspect, and not when both of them are suspect. (Unless you want to interpret Shimon ben Tarfon's derasha to be precisely that...)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Noach vs. Gilgamesh: YKVK and Elokim, Ea and the gods

A quick contrast from the Epic of Gilgamesh to the story of Noach.

In Gilgamesh, there are two parties, namely the council of Great Gods (=HaElohim) who move to destroy the earth via a flood, and Ea (=YKVK ? Ehkeh asher Ehkeh? ), who elsewhere was the creator of humankind, while part of this group and bound by the secret, nevertheless employs a strategem to pass on the news to his servant Utnahpishtim.

The hearts of the Great Gods moved them to inflict the Flood.
Their Father Anu uttered the oath (of secrecy),
Valiant Enlil was their Adviser,
Ninurta was their Chamberlain,
Ennugi was their Minister of Canals.
Ea, the Clever Prince(?), was under oath with them
so he repeated their talk to the reed house:
'Reed house, reed house! Wall, wall!
O man of Shuruppak, son of Ubartutu:
Tear down the house and build a boat!
Abandon wealth and seek living beings!
Spurn possessions and keep alive living beings!
Make all living beings go up into the boat.
The boat which you are to build,
its dimensions must measure equal to each other:
its length must correspond to its width.
Roof it over like the Apsu.
I understood and spoke to my lord, Ea:

Meanwhile, in the Torah, it is Hashem described both as YKVK and as HaElokim who decide to bring the flood. In perek 6:

ז  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, אֶמְחֶה אֶת-הָאָדָם אֲשֶׁר-בָּרָאתִי מֵעַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה, מֵאָדָם עַד-בְּהֵמָה, עַד-רֶמֶשׂ וְעַד-עוֹף הַשָּׁמָיִם:  כִּי נִחַמְתִּי, כִּי עֲשִׂיתִם.7 And the LORD said: 'I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and creeping thing, and fowl of the air; for it repenteth Me that I have made them.'


יא  וַתִּשָּׁחֵת הָאָרֶץ, לִפְנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים; וַתִּמָּלֵא הָאָרֶץ, חָמָס.11 And the earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.
יב  וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָרֶץ, וְהִנֵּה נִשְׁחָתָה:  כִּי-הִשְׁחִית כָּל-בָּשָׂר אֶת-דַּרְכּוֹ, עַל-הָאָרֶץ.  {ס}12 And God saw the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. {S}

And it is both YKVK and Elokim who inform Noach in order to spare him:

ח  וְנֹחַ, מָצָא חֵן בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה.  {פ}8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. {P}


יג  וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים לְנֹחַ, קֵץ כָּל-בָּשָׂר בָּא לְפָנַי--כִּי-מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ חָמָס, מִפְּנֵיהֶם; וְהִנְנִי מַשְׁחִיתָם, אֶת-הָאָרֶץ.13 And God said unto Noah: 'The end of all flesh is come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
יד  עֲשֵׂה לְךָ תֵּבַת עֲצֵי-גֹפֶר, קִנִּים תַּעֲשֶׂה אֶת-הַתֵּבָה; וְכָפַרְתָּ אֹתָהּ מִבַּיִת וּמִחוּץ, בַּכֹּפֶר.14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; with rooms shalt thou make the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.

Then, in perek 7:

א  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה לְנֹחַ, בֹּא-אַתָּה וְכָל-בֵּיתְךָ אֶל-הַתֵּבָה:  כִּי-אֹתְךָ רָאִיתִי צַדִּיק לְפָנַי, בַּדּוֹר הַזֶּה.1 And the LORD said unto Noah: 'Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before Me in this generation.

In a monotheistic religion, the good and the bad both come from the one, all-powerful God.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Women were created in the image of God

It is a bit unbelievable that there should even be a reason to write this.

The pasuk in last week's parasha, Bereishit, makes this fairly clear:

כז  וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָדָם בְּצַלְמוֹ, בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים בָּרָא אֹתוֹ:  זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה, בָּרָא אֹתָם.27 And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.

That is,

וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָדָם בְּצַלְמוֹ - "and God created humankind [man in the sense of humanity] in His own image."

בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים בָּרָא אֹתוֹ - "in the image of God he created it [meaning the species, which is referred to in the masculine singular]

זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה, בָּרָא אֹתָם - "creating them male and female" [referring to the same encompassing act of creation, encompassing both male and female, now in the masculine = neutral plural because the referents are two items, male and female]

Meanwhile, the author of the Daas Torah blog, who encourages get refusal and who says awful things about Gedolim who would help out agunos, unsurprisingly latches on to one Rishon and one Acharon in order to assert that not only are only men created in the image of God but that only men are human (bold emphasis my own).
We are all familiar with Bereishis (1:27): And G-d created the Man in His Image. In the image of G-d He created him. Male and female He created them. 

It seems from this verse that only Adam was created in the image of G-d and not Eve. This implies that only Adam was human and not Eve and by extension that only males are human and not females. I am going to explore this question - to see where it goes and the implications for male-female relationships as well as society as a whole.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Sanhedrin 60: throwing stones at Markulis

In today's daf (Sanhedrin 60), in the Mishnah, we see kissing and hugging as a form of idol worship, and throwing stones at Mercury as a form of idol worship.
There is a famous Ibn Ezra on Daniel (link) that speaks of Muslim practice. He writes, in part:
"ויש לתמוה מחכמי צדוקים שפירשו זה לעתיד, ואמרו: כי המקדש היא מיכ"א שיחוגו עליה הישמעאלים והסירו התמיד, החמש תפילות ונתנו השיקוץ עכו"ם ואלו התועים, איך יתכן שיקרא מקדש רק ירושלים לבדה, וככה שמה בלשון ישמעאל בית ואיך הוא מיכ"א קדש, והלא פקחו אלה העורים את עיניהם וראו כי יש במיכ"א שיקוץ עד היום והלא מרקוליס שאליו יחוגו כל ישמעאל ממזרח וממערב לזרוק אבנים שם, ואלה המפרשים חללו המקדש.
ועוד: אם היה אלה עכו"ם אין תשובה ממרקוליס, כי זה ידעוהו אבותיו ולא סרו אנשי מיכ"א למשמעתו, עד שנשבע להם שלא יסיר עבודת מרקוליס, ואין צורך להאריך."
"One is surprised by Sadducee sages who interpreted this as referring to the future. They said that the sanctuary is Mecca, around which the Ishmaelites circle. and they put aside the daily sacrifice the five prayers (the Salat). and they set up the abomination, idolatry. And they are the mistaken. As is it may be that miqdash/sanctuary refers to Jerusalem alone. Thus it is that in the Ishmaelite language its name is “house”(al-ka’aba). And how is it that Mecca is sacred? Didn’t those blind ones open their eyes and see that in Mecca there is an abomination to this day? Is it not Mercury, around which all Ishmaelites, from east and west, circle to throw stones? And these interpreters have desecrated the sanctuary.
And further, if it was a pagan god, the answer is not Mercury, because his fathers knew him and the men of Mecca did not turn to obedience to him till he swore to them that he would not put aside the service to Mercury. And there is no need to expand."
Ibn Ezra is referring to the stoning of the devil (link):
"The Stoning of the Devil (Arabic: رمي الجمرات‎‎ ramī al-jamarāt, lit. "stoning of the jamarāt [place of pebbles]")[1][2][3] is part of the annual Islamic Hajj pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. During the ritual, Muslim pilgrims throw pebbles at three walls (formerly pillars), called jamarāt, in the city of Mina just east of Mecca. It is one of a series of ritual acts that must be performed in the Hajj. It is a symbolic reenactment of Abraham's hajj, where he stoned three pillars representing the temptation to disobey God and preserve Ishmael."
One could also add the kissing worship of the black stone, (link):
"Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba as a part of the tawaf ritual during the hajj and many try to stop and kiss the Black Stone, emulating the kiss that Islamic tradition records that it received from Muhammad."

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Sanhedrin 11: Where does Rav Pappa's statement end?

At the bottom of Sanhedrin 11a going on to the top of Sanhedrin 11b:

אמר רב פפא זרצו חדש רצו שלשים יום
 תא חזי מאי איכא בין תקיפאי קדמאי לעינוותני בתראי

This is typically understood, within the flow of the gemara, as two separate statements. That is, first Rav Pappa resolves a seeming contradiction within Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel as to whether they wait a month (29 days) or thirty days, and he says that it is up to them. Then, the setama degamara transitions to a new topic, contrasting the behavior of the earlier, purportedly arrogant Rabban Gamliel (who yet said that he and his colleagues saw fit to declare) and the later, purportedly humble Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel (who said he saw fit by himself to declare). And the answer of the setama degemara is that דילמא בתר דעברוהו, perhaps it was after they had removed him (Rabban Gamliel) from office.

I would suggest that we read both of the above quoted statement as a single continuous statement from Rav Pappa. Rather than תקיפאי meaning powerful / arrogant, let it refer to the tekufa, the solar-based season. After all, one of the reasons for declaring an extra month is על התקופה. And קדמאי refers to relative earliness between the solar and lunar calendar. Further, rather than עינוותני meaning humble, let it refer to lunar time (an onah), and have בתראי refer to relative lateness.

That is, Rav Pappa is saying that we already have computed calendars and know how much it would be appropriate to correct to get them in sync, so use that number of days.

This does not seem to work with what follows. What would be the question from that brayta regarding Rabban Gamliel? (The question, we should note, is not made explicit.)  The answer certainly seems to speak to Rabban Gamliel's stature, of lack thereof, where it says

דילמא בתר דעברוהו

However, note the root עבר in the word דעברוהו. Sure, it means that he was removed from office. But isn't it odd that the topic under discussion here is עיבור השנה? Perhaps we can (poorly, as I am grasping here) reframe the question as why he used various seasonal signs rather than the calculation, or why he phrased something some way in his message. And the answer is that perhaps this was after he or they had already intercalated the year.


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