Monday, March 27, 2017

Sources for Bava Basra 45


 

Yerushalmi:
דף יג, ב פרק ד הלכה ב משנה  ולא את הבור ולא את הדות אע"פ שכתב לו עומקה ורומה וצריך ליקח לו דרך דברי רבי עקיבה וחכמים אומרים אינו צריך ליקח לו דרך ומודה ר' עקיבה בזמן שאמר לו חוץ מאילו שאינו צריך ליקח לו דרך מכרן לאחר ר' עקיבה אומר אינו צריך ליקח לו דרך וחכמים אומרים צריך ליקח לו דרך:
דף יג, ב פרק ד הלכה ב גמרא  לאיזה דבר כתב עומקה ורומה שאם רצה להשפיל ישפיל הגביה יגביה.  רבה בר רב הונא בשם רב הלכה כרבי עקיבה דידן דהוא רבנן דרבי חייה.  ר' זעירא רב ירמיה בשם רב הלכה כרבי עקיבה דרבי חייה דהוא רבנן דבבלאי. 

תמן אמרין אדמון ורבי עקיבה אמר ר' לא בסתם חלוקין. 
מה נן קיימין אם דבר בריא שיש לו דרך כל עמא מודי שאין צריך ליקח לו דרך אם דבר בריא שאין לו דרך כל עמא מודו שהוא צריך ליקח לו דרך.  אלא כי נן קיימין בסתם רבי עקיבה אומר אינו צריך ליקח לו דרך וחכמים אומרים צריך ליקח לו דרך:
Tosefta:
 ואע"פ שאומר לו הוא וכל מה שבתוכו אני מוכר לך לא מכר לו את הבאר ולא את השידה ולא את הדותות והיציעים ולא את המערות שבתוכו א"כ למה כתב עומקא ורומא שאם רצה להגביה מגביה להשפיל משפיל 

Friday, March 10, 2017

How modern academic Talmud scholars can fulfill timcheh et zecher Amalek

In yesterday’s Daf Yomi, Bava Batra, Moo amud bet, there is a surprising mnemonic, עמלק סימן. That is, the four cases under discussion in the following section are arev (guarantor), malveh (lender), lokeach rishon (first purchaser) and qablan (a different type of guarantor), who may or may not testify on behalf of a certain other party as to ownership of a field. The letters spell out Amalek.
This is surprising, to use Amalek as a mnemonic, when we are supposed to blot out the memory of Amalek. And Hagahot Yaavetz (Rav Yaakov Emden) has an explanation about how it is OK to use it to remember Torah, and how there is a tipcha (disjunctive accent) on the lo of lo tishkash, לֹ֖א תִּשְׁכָּֽח , somehow telling us that it is sometimes OK for the sake of not forgetting.

The Masoret HaShas, besides pointing us to the Hagahot Yaavetz, points out that the Dikdukei Soferim notes that in many kitvei yad, this mnemonic isn’t present.
Thus, for example, we don’t find it in Ktav Yad Firenze, Paris, or Vatican.

Ktav Yad Vatican
Ktav Yad Firenze
Ktav Yad Paris

If so, perhaps we should cross out this siman, this zecher, from our gemaras. In this way, we can literally fulfill the positive command of תִּמְחֶה֙ אֶת־זֵ֣כֶר עֲמָלֵ֔ק.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Daf Yomi, Bava Batra 31a:

 טוען וחוזר וטוען או אין טוען וחוזר

This is not immediately obvious, but regarding the dispute between Ulla and the Nehardeans, and more specifically, the clarification of which cases are under dispute, is all about the ambiguity of the word chozer.

The way it was intended is almost purely grammatical that after making his first claim, he continues to present to the court another claim. Sort of like "he went and did X".

There are two other possibilities which are ruled out as not under discussion. First, that chozer means a retraction, such that there is an obvious contradiction between his first and second claim. Second, that chozer means physically returning, such that he left the court to go outside, and then physically returned.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Bava Basra 25 - sources

How to use sources below:

In which we look at:
1) Rashi says that Rabbi Abahu's derasha on Oryah is either Persian and means West, or Laaz (Latin) and means East. The Latin word would be Orient. We can see the Persian word in the Aruch. We would expect Rabbi Abahu in Eretz Yisrael to be darshening the Latin more than the Persian.
2) Considering the dispute about how the sun gets backs to its position in the east each morning.
3) Rava's reinterpretation of West being tedira as referring to the location of the Shechina seems farfetched. We see in the Yerushalmi that Abaye appears to hold by the simple meaning, that it is the prevailing wind direction. We could interpret the brayta about the constant contribution of the North wind as referring to something else not contradictory.
At WindFinder dot com, you can see historical dominant wind directions for the past twelve years, at various spots in Israel, and at least for Tel Aviv, how that is the one coming from the West.
4) No, bees don't eat their honey after tasting mustard. They love mustard, and beekeepers suggest it as a bee crop. But the mustard nectar does give a distinctive color, aroma, and flavor. Rabbi Yossi famously says regarding this (or the three cases in the Mishna) that each damages the other. So when we have a statement that:
מפני שפי הדבורים חד ומחריבות הדבש
Perhaps we can reinterpret it. Not that they eat their own honey to get rid of the bad mustard taste. Rather, the mouth of the bees is sharp and destroys the plants. And the mustard destroys the honey by making it honey-mustard.
Regarding the image (from peanut butter cups):
"You got your honey in my mustard!"
"You got your mustard in my honey!"


_________________
Regarding Rashi, the Laaz / Latin word is Orient. What is the Persian word?

Aruch:













“These things being so we shall say, agreeably to what we find in divine scripture, that the sun issuing from the east traverses the sky in the south and ascends northwards, and becomes visible to the whole of the inhabited world. But as the northern and western summit intervenes it produces night in the ocean beyond this earth of ours, and also in the earth beyond the ocean; then afterwards when the sun is in the west, where he is hidden by the highest portion of the earth, and runs his course over the ocean through the northern parts, his presence there makes it night for us, until in describing his orbit he comes again to the east, and again ascending the southern sky illumines the inhabited world, as the divine scripture says through the divine Solomon: “The sun riseth and the sun goeth down and hasteth to his own place. Rising there, he goeth to the south, and wheeleth his circuit, and the wind turneth round to his circuits.” (Christian Topography, part II) Cosmas Indicopleustes-6th Century


Regarding Tedira: 

Abaye in Yerushalmi appears to dispute the diyuk of Rava, that tedira refers to Shechina.


פרק ב הלכה ח משנה  מרחיקין את הנבילות ואת הקברו' ואת הבורסקי מן העיר חמשים אמה ואין עושין בורסקי אלא למזרח העיר ר' עקיבה אומר לכל רוח הוא עושה חוץ מן המערבה ומרחיק חמשים אמה:
דף ו, ב פרק ב הלכה ח גמרא  ר' אבהו בשם רבי יוחנן עד מקום שעושה גלד.  דבית ר' ינאי אמרי עד מקום שעומד ומריח.  ותני כן ר' עקיבה אומר לכל רוח הוא עושה ומרחיק חוץ מן המערבה מפני שהיא תדירה.  רבי מנא היה מהלך עם מוכי שחין אמר ליה אביי לא תהלוך ממדינחיה אלא ממערביה:
דף ו, ב פרק ב הלכה ט משנה  מרחיקין את המשרה מן הירק ואת הכרישין מן הבצלים ואת החרדל מן הדבורים רבי יוסי מתיר בחרדל:

דף ו, ב פרק ב הלכה ט גמרא  תני מרחיקין את הבצלים מן הכרישין ור' לעזר בר' שמעון מתיר.  א"ר יעקב בן דוסאי מגו אילין מתניתא כשם שזה מרחיק זה מזה כך זה מרחיק זה מזה.  רבי אבהו בשם רבי יוסי בן חנינה מפני שפי הדבורים חד ומחריבות הדבש:


From WindFinder.Com, the dominant wind might indeed be a westerly wind:
Dominant Wind Direction, Tel Aviv/Ben Gurion:

Nes Tsiyona:


Do the bees really suffer from eating the mustard and then consume the honey in the hive? No, but the mustard nectar affects the taste of the honey, perhaps in a good way, but there is no accounting for taste.
Bee Value of White Mustard
Considered an excellent bee plant, white mustard brings nectar along with fair quality yellow pollen. The floriferous plants bloom for about a month.
The nectar is easily accessible to bees. Plants yield quite a bit of nectar, up to 1.1 mg per blossom daily. This contains 50 to 60 per-cent sugar concentration.
White mustard can bring a good honey crop of 25 to 100 pounds per colony. The honey can vary in color, but is typically light colored to mustard yellow. When first extracted, it can have a mustard-like aroma.
Although the flavor is initially so strong it can burn the mouth, this mellows with time. Granulating rather rapidly, the honey should be extracted promptly. It has been known to ferment.

"You got your honey in my mustard!"
"You got your mustard in my honey!"

דף ו, ב

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Bava Basra 20b-21b: zecher vs. zeicher

1) In the Mishna at the bottom of 20b, the simple difference is between the objection to intruders, that is, foot traffic making noise and making the courtyard into a less private area, and noise intrinsic to the work. The children studying (or playing) make noise, but this is not the same as making the courtyard into a public thoroughfare.

The various braytot saying one may not establish a school obviously are contradictory to our Mishna and Rava, and claiming that it refers to gentile schoolchildren is a forced answer. It seems more like a matter of Tannaitic dispute. By reinterpreting those other sources, one establishes like the law in the Mishna and like Rava. Meanwhile, the easy answer was not offered by the gemara, that Rava (or by the setama degamara immediately after Rava) already made the necessary distinction, namely ומתקנת יהושע בן גמלא ואילך. Those other braytot were talking about before this takkana, so there would be more intruders, from far off. Or the takkana placed greater importance on this teaching, such that it would override the objections.

2) In terms of punishing a student:



Artscroll’s footnote #10 is based (at least in part) on the next Rashi, or at least that is what they link to. I wonder if this is deliberate.

3) The story with Yoav and reading zecher as referring to males. Artscroll writes it as זְכַר, zechar, with a sheva under the zayin and a patach under the chaf:
This makes some grammatical sense. The idea is that zechar is the construct form (males-of) and would be vocalized in this way, rather than the absolute form (males), which would be vocalized as zachar.

Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Goldberg told me of an interesting explanation from Rav Meshulam Roth (see here) that the difference is between zecher (segol segol) and zeicher (tzeirei segol). With the improper segol segol, it is parallel to eshen hakivshan, a construct form, where the absolute form is ashan. So with segol segol, Yoav believes that it was the construct form of zachar, males.

Shadal uses this as a proof that they didn’t have nikkud in the times of Yoav, because otherwise, “how did the teacher of Yoav not see any sefer which had the nikkud under ther word zecher in the verse timche et zecher Amalek, such that he taught Yoav z'char with a sheva under the zayin and a patach under the chaf?”

(Artscroll presents Tosafot’s read of the gemara, with the teacher knowing it to be zeicher, and answering the adult Yoav with zeicher, but not having corrected Yoav as a child.)

I would add that if Chazal had written nikkud, and / or names for the nikkud, this would be one of the places in which they would have utilized it, at the very least to disambiguate which reading the teacher had, instead of writing the difficult to disambiguate:
אמר ליה והא אנן זכר קרינן א"ל אנא זכר אקריון אזל שייליה לרביה אמר ליה היאך אקריתן אמר ליה זכר

This and other instances in which Chazal should have used nikkud or referred to nikkud by name is telling.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Thoughts on Bava Batra 10b-11b


1)
רבי אבא אמר מהכא (ישעיהו לג, טז) הוא מרומים ישכון מצדות סלעים משגבו לחמו נתן מימיו נאמנים מה טעם מרומים ישכון מצדות סלעים משגבו משום דלחמו נתן ומימיו נאמנים
The derasha might well be also a revocalization, of sela'im mishegavu, *coins* (rather than rocks) when collected.

2)
אלא א"כ ממונה עליה כרבי חנניא בן תרדיון.
See Tosafot. It is a common mistake to judge the value of a person, particularly in the religious sphere, based on a single measure. More accurate would be a vector of characteristics, such as honesty, trustworthiness (like R' Chananya ben Tradyon), mindfulness (like Elisha), empathy, commitment to God, fear of sin, and so on.

3) Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai had his own understanding of the pasuk, yet still encouraged his students to develop their own paths and their own novel interpretations. Interestingly, almost all the students' interpretations line up and have a novelty only in one feature, based on different prooftexts. And none of these really like up with Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai's own interpretation.

11b:
אבותי גנזו במקום שהיד שולטת בו ואני גנזתי במקום שאין היד שולטת בו
Wouldn't they have eventually melted?

Monday, January 30, 2017

Bava Basra 8

Considering the Rashi about dogs and ravens

Raven Feeding Young:

Medieval Bestiary
Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 10, 15): When raven chicks are strong enough to fly, their parents drive them far away from the nest, so that in small villages there are never more than two pairs of ravens. Ravens experience 60 days of poor health due primarily to thirst, before the figs ripen in autumn. Some say that ravens mate or lay eggs through the beak, and as a consequence if a pregnant women eats raven eggs or has such eggs in the house, she will experience a difficult birth; but Aristotle says this is not true. Ravens are the only birds that understand the meaning they convey in auspices, and it is a particularly bad sign if a raven gulps down its croak as though it was choking. (Book 10, 60): When Tiberius was emperor, there was a raven in Rome that always greeted him by name. Another raven was seen dropping stones into an urn of water, causing the water to rise high enough for it to drink.
Bartholomaeus Anglicus [13th century CE] (De proprietatibus rerum, book 12): The raven beholdeth the mouths of her birds when they yawn. But she giveth them no meat ere she know and see the likeness of her own blackness, and of her own colour and feathers. And when they begin to wax black, then afterward she feedeth them with all her might and strength. It is said that ravens' birds are fed with dew of heaven all the time that they have no black feathers by benefit of age. Among fowls, only the raven hath four and sixty changings of voice. (Mediaeval Lore from Bartholomew Anglicus (London, 1893/1905) Steele edition of 1905)


_____________
Ravens will eat all sorts of food, though, including the feces of the chicks.

-----------------
Dog Digestion, Source 1:
There is no simple answer though as passage timedepends on several factors. Each dog is an individual. In general, raw dog food takes about 4 to 6 hours to move through your dog. Dry dog food takes a bit longer to digest and spends about 10 to 12 hours inside your dog.

Dog Digestion, Source 2: (Study)

Body weight and GI transit times in dogs

Dogs with the lowest body weight appeared to have longer gastric and small intestinal transit times than did large- and giant-breed dogs

The objective of this study was to assess the relationship between body weight (BW) and gastrointestinal (GI) transit times in healthy dogs, measured by a wireless motility capsule (WMC) system. Food was withheld overnight from 31 healthy dogs. The following morning, each dog received an orally administered WMC, then a test meal that provided a fourth of the daily energy requirements. Measurements were obtained from each dog in its home environment via a vest holding a receiver that collected and stored data from the WMC.
Gastric emptying time (GET) ranged from 405 to 897 minutes, small bowel transit time (SBTT) ranged from 96 to 224 minutes, large bowel transit time (LBTT) ranged from 427 to 2,573 minutes and total transit time (TTT) ranged from 1,294 to 3,443 minutes. There was no positive relationship between BW and GI transit times. A nonlinear inverse relationship between BW and GET and between BW and SBTT best fit the data. The LBTT could not be explained by this model and likely influenced the poor fit for the TTT.
Dogs with the lowest BW appeared to have longer gastric and small intestinal transit times than did large- and giant-breed dogs.
Source : C.S. Boillat et al., 2010. Assessment of the relationship between body weight and gastrointestinal transit times measured by use of a wireless motility capsule system in dogs. AJVR 71: 898-902. doi: 10.2460/ajvr.71.8.898

Monday, January 23, 2017

End of Bava Metzia (118b-119a) - A few notes


1) The Mishna itself is not clear about Rabbi Shimon's reason. Rashi suggests that he holds like Rabbi Meir that it belongs to the owner of the upper garden, but that he is mafkir towards the owner of the lower garden, because of embarrassment?
Yet he is kicking and screaming in court for rights to it? Maybe not, we are just establishing what the halacha is, and people will follow it. Ramban has the opposite, that it belongs to the lower owner (who has air rights), who is mochel / mafkir the top part.
It could be that it is neither. Rather, Rabbi Shimon holds it is like a dofen akuma, that the upper garden bends, 10 tefachim or as far as one can reach without effort, so the side soil is like the topsoil of his garden. That it is like a pavilion (apiryon) which bends (namtaya).
2) See source [1], a comparison of Bavli and Yerushalmi. According to Bavli, everyone holds like Rabbi Shimon. According to Yerushalmi, what Ephraim reports in the name of Resh Lakish is that we split. Presumably because we don't decide between Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yehuda. See next note about teku of mamon where you split.
What is reported in Bavli in the name of the academy of Rabbi Yannai is what Rabbi Yochanan says in Yerushalmi in the name of Rabbi Yannai. Meanwhile, in Yerushalmi, the academy of Rabbi Yannai have a different position, that Rabbi Shimon extends to 10 tefachim. It is simplest to read this as a dispute, but perhaps these can be read as complementary.
3) See source [2], the Rosh. Regarding the teku, this is classing Rabbi Yirmeyah, who was eventually thrown out of the bet midrash for asking about a bird with one leg in bounds and one leg out of bounds.
The Hagaha (pictured) notes that Rabbenu Chananel says that in case of teku of mamon, the rule is to split.
Note that of the two cases we have in our gemara and Rashi which results in teku, the Rosh (pictured) only has reaching the protrusion and not the root. It seems that he, as well as the Rambam, have a different girsa which doesn't have the case of reaching the root but not the protrusions. Interestingly, Rosh goes on to argue on the Teku, saying that, based on the **unspoken** reason for Rabbi Shimon of the upper garden owner being mafkir, here he would not be mafkir, because he can get at it from the protrusions.
4) Rashi defines the yerek of the Mishna as onions or garlic. Garlic is of the onion family. Both have the bulbs under the dirt. I am not sure why Rashi wants to establish the case in this manner, particularly since in the gemara, Rava makes the entire dispute about to protrusions.
5) King Shapur praises Rabbi Shimon. Rashi maintains this is the actual King Shapur of Persia. (And Maharatz Chayes says that since establishing law is one of the seven Noachide commandments, this is part of the Torah which one may teach to non-Jews.) The opposing position is that this is really Shmuel, who the Amoraim sometimes called King Shapur. I can understand it as a nickname, since Shmuel was close to king Shapur and the Sasanian government.
It is unclear if this was really a nickname of Shmuel. See Pesachim 54, one such instance. Rava says "I will tell you something even King Shapur doesn't say", which is an idiomatic boast. The setama degemara interjects that this is a reference to Shmuel, but this could be analysis outside of the social context in which the statement was made. Interestingly, there is another version which follows in that gemara, that some say Rav Pappa made the statement, in which case King Shapur refers to Rava.
6) I haven't seen anyone say this, but it is **important** to note that King Shapur is making a pun. That is, upon hearing a statement of **Ephraim** who is **noteh** like Rabbi **Shimon**, he says that his Apiryon (=Ephraim) extends (nimtaya) to Rabbi Shimon.
This pun is important because, unlike one rejected hava amina in Rashi, this is not addressing Rabbi Shimon of the Mishna directly. It is addressing specifically the statement of Ephraim in the name of Resh Lakish.
7) See source [3]. Given that King Shapur makes this statement, we might expect to see a dry 55-page article about Sasanian attitudes towards adjacent upper and lower gardens. But Shai Secunda in "The Iranian Talmud: Reading the Bavli in Its Sasanian Context" says there is nothing directly in Sasanian law.
Maybe we can relate it to Sasanian law about fields adjacent to a riverbed geting some portion of the riverbed (to the ear), especially if we are dealing with a dofen akuma conceptualization.
8) Apiryan as grace is apparently a Middle Persian word. There are two ways of reading the word. Rashi has apiryan, grace. Rabbenu Chananel has apiryah, like pru ureva, that rabbis such as Rabbi Shimon should increase.
See source [4]. If we read it like apiryon (with a cholam as in our printed texts, rather than with two yuds), then the word is found in Shir HaShirim perek 3 as a hapax and probable foreign loan word.
If we would like to be mystical, then stam Rabbi Shimon in the Mishna is Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai. And in the Zohar parashas Terumah, the pasuk in Shir Hashirim about the Apiryon is taken to refer to the Bet HaMikdash, functioning as an apiryon connection between the upper and lower. As in the English explanation I copied (which is expansive rather than a literal translation), the connection is between the Upper Garden (of Eden) and the Lower Garden (of Eden).
So while Rav Saadia Gaon doesn't know Zohar, King Shapur does, and says that according to Rabbi Shimon, there is an apiryon which extends from the upper to lower garden.
9) See the variant texts in source [5]. Ephraim Mekoshaah is an error, as that would refer to the student of Rabbi Meir, not the student of Resh Lakish.
Many texts are expansive of what King Shapur says. See inside.
Also, many texts have Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish explicitly. I think the correct would be the ambiguous Rabbi Shimon, though these texts would reflect how the statement was commonly, and perhaps correctly, understood.

Bava Metzia 119a

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Thoughts on parshas Shemos:


1)
וַיָּקָם מֶלֶךְ-חָדָשׁ, עַל-מִצְרָיִם, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יָדַע, אֶת-יוֹסֵף
A midrashic dispute whether the king was new or his decrees were new. The way the latter works is that the king (melech) enacted (vayakam) new (chadash) decrees, which did not recognize Yosef. See this further developed here.
2)
וַתֹּאמַרְןָ הַמְיַלְּדֹת אֶל-פַּרְעֹה, כִּי לֹא כַנָּשִׁים הַמִּצְרִיֹּת הָעִבְרִיֹּת: כִּי-חָיוֹת הֵנָּה, בְּטֶרֶם תָּבוֹא אֲלֵהֶן הַמְיַלֶּדֶת וְיָלָדוּ
What does it mean that they are chayos? Onkelos translates that they are chakiman, which is generally assumed to mean wise women. But it really is the Aramaic term for midwife. See this further developed here:
3)
וַיֵּלֶךְ אִישׁ, מִבֵּית לֵוִי; וַיִּקַּח, אֶת-בַּת-לֵוִי.
The best, simplest local peshat is that Bat Levi is not the actual daughter of Levi, but a women of the tribe of Levi, parallel to the Ish miBet Levi. This is the primary. Pesukim which give Yocheved as Amram's aunt are secondary and interpretive.
We hit into problems about the length of the servitude, and Yocheved would be miraculously old when giving birth to Moshe. This interpretation would obviate that. Other interpretations are possible, such as that it means his beloved (who the midrash says Amram remarried) or that it means the daughter of his uncle. More details here:
4)
וַתֵּרֶד בַּת-פַּרְעֹה לִרְחֹץ עַל-הַיְאֹר, וְנַעֲרֹתֶיהָ הֹלְכֹת עַל-יַד הַיְאֹר; וַתֵּרֶא אֶת-הַתֵּבָה בְּתוֹךְ הַסּוּף, וַתִּשְׁלַח אֶת-אֲמָתָהּ וַתִּקָּחֶהָ.
It is a *midrash* and not peshat. But peshat could either mean that she *stretched* forth her arm (see what I did there?) or that she send forth her handmaiden (and there?).
An article a while back, discussing the "dangers of midrashim", gave the following false choice:
"Would you see Pharaoh’s daughter requesting her maidservant to fetch the basket—as the pasuk tells us—or would you see her arm grow 25 feet long (like Mister Fantastic) and rope in the basket—as the Midrash says?"
I am not saying that midrashim are historical. But there is a difference between saying something is historical and that something was intended literally. More on this here:

Thursday, January 12, 2017

"Adir Apam" and other thoughts on Vaychi

Now this is an interesting variant:



The Samaritans, troubled by the curse to Shimon and Levi among the "blessings" of Yaakov at the end of his life, take away the curse. Our Masoretic text has:
http://mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0149.htm
אָרוּר אַפָּם כִּי עָז, וְעֶבְרָתָם כִּי קָשָׁתָה; אֲחַלְּקֵם בְּיַעֲקֹב, וַאֲפִיצֵם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל. {פ}
"Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce, and their wrath, for it was cruel; I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel. "

The Samaritans change arur ("cursed") to adir ("mighty"), by changing the resh to the similarly written daled. And they change 'evrasam ("their wrath") to chevrasam ("their partnership"), which is a switch of one guttural letter for another. By dividing them and scattering them, he prevents their chevra.

Note that it isn't introduced as a blessing. Only at the end (Bereishis 49:28) does it state:

כָּל-אֵלֶּה שִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר; וְזֹאת אֲשֶׁר-דִּבֶּר לָהֶם אֲבִיהֶם, וַיְבָרֶךְ אוֹתָם--אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר כְּבִרְכָתוֹ, בֵּרַךְ אֹתָם.

BRK also carries the connotation of farewell and greeting (compare with the meeting with Pharaoh), rather than just blessing. But I do think the import of pasuk 28 is to say that he blessed them, and that this is the same as what he said to them, above.

See here (you would need to install the djvu extension):
http://jnul.huji.ac.il/dl/books/djvu/2093934-1/index.djvu?djvuopts&thumbnails=yes&zoom=page&page=66

Also, the following thoughts on parshas Vayechi:

1) If Yaakov is indeed bowing down to Yosef (Bereishis 47:31), then it isn't subserviance but an expression of gratitude.
2) Alternatively, this is a fulfillment of Yosef's dream, of which Yaakov had said (Bereishis 37:10) "Shall your mother and I and your brothers bow down to you?"
3) However, I don't think that Yaakov is bowing here at all. There is an
intended contrast between the end of this pasuk:
וַיֹּאמֶר, הִשָּׁבְעָה לִי--וַיִּשָּׁבַע, לוֹ; וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל, עַל-רֹאשׁ הַמִּטָּה.
and two pesukim later (Bereishis 48:2):
וַיַּגֵּד לְיַעֲקֹב--וַיֹּאמֶר, הִנֵּה בִּנְךָ יוֹסֵף בָּא אֵלֶיךָ; וַיִּתְחַזֵּק, יִשְׂרָאֵל, וַיֵּשֶׁב, עַל-הַמִּטָּה.
Namely, we should redraw the pasuk division lines in our pasuk. (47:21) Yisrael's **laying prostrate** in bed has nothing to do with Yosef's oath. It happened later, and this is indicated that he is weak and sick. And (48:1) Yosef is informed of his father's illness and comes. And (48:2) Yisrael hears that Yosef has come and strengthens himself, and is able to sit up in bed.
4) I forget if it was Ibn Caspi or Shadal, that the whole purpose of the Torah mentioning the rape of Dinah was so that we would understand the reference in Vaychi in Yaakov's message to Shimon and Levi.
5) There is a hidden criticism of Yehuda for the incident with Tamar, just as Shimon and Levi are criticized, and just as what was done to Yosef was criticized.
לֹא-יָסוּר שֵׁבֶט מִיהוּדָה, וּמְחֹקֵק מִבֵּין רַגְלָיו, עַד כִּי-יָבֹא שִׁילֹה, וְלוֹ יִקְּהַת עַמִּים.
Recall what Yehuda gave as tokens to Tamar as the wages of prostitution. Staff, cord, and engraved seal (signet). They shall not leave Yehuda. Except for that which is between his legs. Why? Because he said "until Shelah shall come," that is, kept postponing Shelah's levirate marriage to Tamar. The word Shiloh is spelled (has a ksiv) with a heh at the end, such that it reads Shelah.

Bava Metzia 108: The special derasha on ve'asisa hayashar

1) Amud Aleph:
הרדעי אמרי אפילו משום דינא דבר מצרא מסלקינן ליה משום שנאמר (דברים ו, יח) ועשית הישר והטוב בעיני ה

Is this just an idea of being nice? This is understood to be a Rabbinic enactment, guided by that principle, so that they will (according to the Nehardeans) even eject the interloper from his purchased property, such that he would have to give it to the abutting neighbor (with recompense). Or that when he buys it, he is acting as an (unwilling) agent for the abutting neighbor.

I would suggest that it is not the **standard** interpretation of ve'asisa hayashar vehatov, that is, introducing the idea of lifnim meshuras hadin. If so, it is difficult to say that lifnim mishuras hadin is being established as din, that we chase him off his purchased property.

I would suggest that this is rather a derasha on hayashar vehatov. The pasuk in full is:

וְעָשִׂיתָ הַיָּשָׁר וְהַטּוֹב בְּעֵינֵי ה לְמַעַן יִיטַב לָךְ וּבָאתָ וְיָרַשְׁתָּ אֶת הָאָרֶץ הַטֹּבָה אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע ה לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ.

So it is related to inheriting the land. And hayashar doesn't just mean what is righteous. It literally means "you shall do straight and good". In the context of bar metzra, contiguous land is literally straight and good. So we have a *Biblically* established principle of making land good by being contiguous. And that is enough to chase off the interloper.

2) Don't miss out on the long Rashi on amud beis:

שכיני העיר ושכיני השדה שכיני העיר קודמין - נראה בעיני דלאו בדינא דבר מצרא איירי אלא להשיא עצה דרך ישר וטוב למוכר שאם יש לו שדה למכור ובאו עליה ללוקח שכינים הדרים אצלו בדירה ושכן שיש לו בשדה ששדותיהן סמוכות זו לזו וזו שיש לו למכור אינה סמוכה למצרן שכיני העיר קודמין ואני לא דקדקתי בה מפי רבינו כל צרכי ועד הנה פירשתי דבמצרן דיליה קאמר והשתא לא נראה לי דאם כן הוה ליה למיתנינהו בהדי הנך דלעיל ולמימר הכי לאשה וליתמי ולשותפי ולשכיני העיר ולת"ח לית בה משום דינא דבר מצרא מאי שנא דשני בלישנא דכולי שמעתא למינקט לישנא דקודמין ותו דקאמר שכן ותלמיד חכם ת"ח קודם אי האי שכן מצרן הוא אמאי ת"ח קודם תלמיד חכם לאו בר ועשית הישר והטוב הוא דהאי ועשית אלוקח שדיוה רבנן כדאמרינן לעיל גבי זבין לעכו"ם עכו"ם לאו בר ועשית כו' ותו קרוב ותלמיד חכם מאי דינא דבר מצרא איכא וא"ת כששניהן מצרנין אטו משום דת"ח הוא משלח גלימא דאינשי:

He basically says that, despite the words שכיני השדה, we are not speaking of an abutting neighbor (bar metzra), but of a neighbor in town vs. a neighbor of a different field of his, located elsewhere. Tosafot meanwhile makes this a case of bar metzra, but both the town person and the field person are abutting neighbors.

What is interesting about this Rashi is: ואני לא דקדקתי בה מפי רבינו כל צרכי ועד הנה פירשתי 

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