Monday, December 05, 2016

The Midrash Sees: The Aretz upon which you are lying

A curious Rashi towards the beginning of parshat Vayeitzei can open our eyes to some of the poetry in Yaakov’s prophecy.

The pasuk (Bereishit 28):

And behold, the Lord was standing over him, and He said, "I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac; the land upon which you are lying to you I will give it and to your seed.
יג וְהִנֵּה ה נִצָּב עָלָיו וַיֹּאמַר אֲנִי ה אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם אָבִיךָ וֵאלֹהֵי יִצְחָק הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה שֹׁכֵב עָלֶיהָ לְךָ אֶתְּנֶנָּה וּלְזַרְעֶךָ:

And the Rashi:

upon which you are lying: (Chullin ad loc.) The Holy One, blessed be He, folded the entire Land of Israel under him. He hinted to him that it would be as easily conquered by his children (as four cubits, which represent the area a person takes up [when lying down]). [From Chullin 91b]
שכב עליה: קיפל הקב"ה כל ארץ ישראל תחתיו, רמז לו שתהא נוחה ליכבש לבניו:

I do not think that Rashi believes that the peshat is that there was this astonishing miracle* for the simple purpose of conveying this hint about the ease of conquering the land. Even though there are miracles abounding in Rashi’s interpretation, of the kefitzat haderech, folding up of the path, to get Yaakov places, or of multiple stones coalescing into a single large stone. He presents us with a derasha, which he either believes to be historical or ahistorical, to teach us some message.

There is, however, an irregularity in this text which the midrash picks up upon. The word eretz serves two purposes in Biblical Hebrew. It refers to ground, that is to dirt, and it refers to a country.

And the word seems to be deliberately used for both purposes here. Hashem specifies the eretz upon which Yaakov sleeps. This is a concrete piece of ground, for cubits. But it would be silly to tell Yaakov that He is granting him those four cubits of ground, to him and to his descendants. Obviously it is referring to the country**.

This is then a more poetic prophecy that other Divine promises. It either uses the word eretz in both senses, or it is a type of synecdoche (using a part to refer to the whole). Why do this? It is emphasizing the humble state of now and contrasting it with the eventual end state. Yaakov had fled and was on his way to Charan, with little in the way of earthly possessions. (This is not just the midrash about Elifaz stealing his wealth, but in the pesukim themselves. For instance, where he says in Vayishlach “for I passed over this Jordan with only my staff, and now I have become two camps.”) He is in the wild, unprotected, and sleeping on the bare ground. And now Hashem appears to him and is nitzav upon him, guarding him, and guarantees that he will guard him everywhere he will go. And so Hashem tells him that this very bare ground upon which he sleeps, and indeed the entire country it is connected to, will belong to him.

The same poetry is present in the next pasuk, and if not for this midrash, we might have missed it:

And your seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall gain strength westward and eastward and northward and southward; and through you shall be blessed all the families of the earth and through your seed.
ידוְהָיָה זַרְעֲךָ כַּעֲפַר הָאָרֶץ וּפָרַצְתָּ יָמָּה וָקֵדְמָה וְצָפֹנָה וָנֶגְבָּה וְנִבְרְכוּ בְךָ כָּל מִשְׁפְּחֹת הָאֲדָמָה וּבְזַרְעֶךָ:

Why the dust of the earth? It is again riffing on the fact that he is sleeping on the bare ground, made of dust.

One additional thought: Dust is plentiful, and beyond counting, so the standard understanding of “numerous” works here. But dust is also not rooted. When the wind blows, it will blow that dust in all directions, westward, eastward, northward and southward. And in such scattering, all the clans of the adama (ground, country) shall be blessed, as your influence and progeny spreads.



* Actually, since this is occurring in his dream, so it need not even be a miracle. It can be a miraculous dream-event, in which he imagined that Hashem folded up the earth.

* See Haksav veHakabbalah, who notes that saying, on a peshat level, the land you sleep upon need not be the land directly beneath you, but surrounding you. Perhaps. I think this is deliberate poetic use.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Bava Metzia 69a-b: On judicial transparency

In today’s daf, an interesting point emerges about judicial transparency. Here is the relevant gemara:

הנהו תרי כותאי דעבוד עסקא בהדי הדדי אזיל חד מנייהו פליג זוזי בלא דעתיה דחבריה אתו לקמיה דרב פפא א"ל מאי נפקא מינה הכי אמר רב נחמן זוזי כמאן דפליגי דמו לשנה זבון חמרא בהדי הדדי קם אידך פליג ליה בלא דעתיה דחבריה אתו לקמיה דרב פפא א"ל מאן פלג לך א"ל קא חזינא דבתר דידי קא אתי מר א"ר פפא כה"ג ודאי צריך לאודועיה זוזי מי שקיל טבי ושביק חסרי (אמר ליה לא אמר ליה) חמרא כולי עלמא ידעי דאיכא דבסים ואיכא דלא בסים

From Soncino:

Two Cutheans25  entered on a share partnership.26  Then one went and divided the money without his partner's knowledge. So they came before R. Papa.27  Said he to him [the plaintiff]: What difference does it make? Thus did R. Nahman rule: Monies are held to be already divided. The following year they bought wine in partnership. Thereupon the other arose and divided it without his partner's knowledge. Again they came before R. Papa. Said he to him: Who divided it for you? — I see, he replied, that you are biased in my partner's favour.28  Said R. Papa: In such a case1  it is certainly necessary to inform him [of the grounds of my verdicts]: As for coins, would he take good coins and leave short-weight ones [for you]? But in the case of wine, everybody knows that some wine is sweet and some is not.2

See Tosafot on the daf, the Rosh, and Nimukei Yosef (on the Rif) about this.

We see that one of the litigants thinks Rav Papa is biased against him, since he ruled against him in sequential cases which, to him mind, should have had the same ruling. And so Rav Papa says that, in such a case, Rav Papa must surely inform him of the grounds of the verdict.

There is an ambiguity here. Rav Papa says  כה"ג ודאי צריך לאודועיה, “in such a case, certainly one must inform him.” Inform whom? Of what? There are two ways of understanding it. One, what we have seen so far, that Rav Papa must inform the litigant. And thus we see Rav Papa explain his verdict in the next sentences. The other understanding, that one partner should have informed his partner of his intent to sell. The reason being what Rav Papa elaborates, that there is a difference between coins (where one need not inform) and wine (where one needs to inform).

Rosh (who quotes Tosafot and adds an additional point) writes:

That is, he first cites our ambiguous gemara. Then writes (parallel to Tosafot):

The implication is that specifically in this case [bechi hai gavna -- the words Rav Papa used], where there is a reason for [the litigant] opening his mouth, to suspect the judge, it is necessary to inform him of the reason of the ruling, because of [Bemidbar 32:22] “And you shall be deemed innocent by Hashem and by Israel.” But in general, no. From here Rabbenu Tam, za’l, deduces that that which is stated at the end of perek Zeh Borer [Sanhedrin 31b] [writing here the gemara in fuller form]:

If two litigants are in obstinate disagreement with respect to [the venue of] a lawsuit, and one says: Let us be tried here; and the other says: Let us go to the place of Assembly;17  he [the defendant] must attend the court in his18  home town. And if it is necessary to consult [the Assembly], the matter is written down and forwarded to them. And if the litigant19  says 'Write down the grounds on which you made your decision and give them to me,20  they must write them down and give him the document.

This [where they must write down the grounds of the decision] is specifically where they initially compelled him to the court [since he wanted to go to the Assembly]. But if initially he went willingly and they judged him, they don’t write for him.

And some explain that this that Rav Papa said כה"ג ודאי צריך לאודועיה, means that you [the litigant] should have initially informed him [your partner] when you divided.

And [here this is more than what Tosafot writes] even according to the other interpretation, there is no proof from here. For here is its explanation: In such an instance, one [the judge] needs to inform him, even if he [the litigant] did not ask for the reason of his judgement. For here, he [the Cuthean litigant] did not ask that he inform him, but rather said “I see that you are going after me”. But in general, if he asked, he writes it down for him.

See for more detail in Nimukei Yosef:

who brings up the idea that, in general, where there wasn’t a basis for confusion [based on the two seemingly contrary judgements], if someone had the same reaction as this Cuthean, to mock the judgement, he would not be informed of the reason for the judgement, but would rather be placed under the ban.


I think in such a case, the ambiguity of the underlying text plays a strong role in the different conclusions. The simplest reading that occurs is that Rav Papa is justifying himself, after being accused of judicial impropriety. And only when the other way of interpreting the text is pointed out does one come to that realization. And one is left uncertain how to interpret it, and ruminate on it, try to muster proofs from other sources, balance with other gemaras, etc..

At the same time, it seems to be likely that, in many cases, there will be some unconscious cultural influence. How one feels about the role of the court system, whether it should regularly be transparent, whether to empower or condemn a litigant who feels wronged, and so on. These attitudes could color how one reads an ambiguous gemara such as this one, and whether one things reading A or reading B is the more convincing, and how far-reaching (to which cases) reading A would apply.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Handout for today / tomorrow daf Yomi (Bava Kamma 106-107)

1) Peshat: paragraph 1 about kesef and keilim, paragraph 2 about animals. Interjection of al kol devar pesha is general statement about person lying in court with a claim which would exempt. Paragraph 3 about shoel and sachir.

2) Derash: paragraph 1 about shomer chinam, paragraph 2 about shomer sachar.

3) Ambiguity: Im yimatzei haganav in [6] as either (A) if the actual outside thief be found, or (B) if he be found to be the ganav.

4) Ambiguity: venikrav baal habayit el haelohim in [7] as just coming to court and denying, or an oath as in pasuk [10].

5) Rav: Based on pasuk [10], once the owners accept his oath, he is exempt from swearing, even if witnesses come later.

6) Rabbi Yochanan: Based on pasuk [6] about ganav and pasuk [7-8] about toen taanat ganav, that he pays double, that both have all the laws of ganav, including 4X and 5X. But consider ambiguity of (3)? Ganav vs. HaGanav in [6] includes actual ganav as well.

7) Rabbi Yochanan: Aveida in pasuk [8] refers to falsely claiming theft on a lost article.

8) Rabbi Yochanan, Rami bar Yechezkel: Ki hu zeh in pasuk [8] introduces modeh bemiktzat on falsely claiming theft.

9) R’ Chiya bar Yosef: Eruv parshiyot of parts of [8] to below, pasuk [24]. (Consider how in peshat, it is an interjection about several cases.)

10) Rava: Go through each of three paragraphs. Explicit in p1, link of ki yitan from p1 to p2, conjunctive in p3. Sachir mentioned in p3, [14], pasuk but falls under p1 or p2.

11) R’ Chiya bar Yosef: In pasuk [7], im lo shalach. On peshat level, im means she-, the contents of the oath. Shalach yado literally is that he isn’t stealing it now. But interpret to mean “misappropriation”, either using it beyond scope of his shemirah (hanaah) or that he stole it [took some action earlier with intent to keep it, prior to this oath], or ate it, and only then is there kefel. Rabbi Yochanan disagrees ambiguously (excludes or allows). Rav Sheshet excludes from kefel (im as if, or it is an additional oath to the literal one but not carrying kefel).

Bava Kamma 106a:
אמר רב הונא אמר רב מנה לי בידך והלה אומר אין לך בידי כלום ונשבע ובאו עדים פטור שנאמר ולקח בעליו ולא ישלם כיון שקבלו בעלים שבועה שוב אין משלמין ממון

Yerushalmi Shevuot 7:1
דף לג, א פרק ז הלכה א משנה  כל הנשבעין שבתורה נשבעין ולא משלמין...
דף לג, ב פרק ז הלכה א גמרא  ממשמע שנאמר שבועת ה' תהיה בין שניהם אין אנו יודעין שאם לא ישבע ישלם מה ת"ל ולקח בעליו ולא ישלם אלא מכיון שקיבלו בעלים שבועה הוא פטור מלשלם.
רבי חגיי בעא קומי רבי יוסי ולמה לי כרבי מאיר אפילו כרבנן.  לא א"ר אסי בשם רבי יוחנן דברי רבי מאיר ממשמע לאו אתה שומע הן ולקח בעליו ולא ישלם הא אם לא ישבע ישלם.  תני רבי חייה מתנה שומר חנם ושומר שכר להיות כשואל.  א"ר חנינה הכל מודין בלשון תורה ממשמע לאו אתה שומע הין מה פליגין בלשון בני אדם.  

Bavli Shevuot 7:1
דף מה, א גמרא  כל הנשבעין שבתורה נשבעין ולא משלמין מנלן דאמר קרא (שמות כב) ולקח בעליו ולא ישלם מי שעליו לשלם לו שבועה:

The Yerushalmi’s derasha seems parallel to that of Rav, but it used by Yerushalmi to show that it is always the nitba rather than tovea who swears to excuse himself. Consider how the gemara redirects the pasuk of Rav towards this end, using the same language as the Bavli.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Prep for tomorrow’s daf Yomi shiur in Bava Kamma 99b bottom - 100b

Prep for tomorrow’s daf Yomi shiur in Bava Kamma 99b bottom - 100b
Tosefta Bava Kamma 10:4
(Rabbi Chiyya) - because he authored Tosefta, so it pays to see what he holds, given that there was an incident involving him.

נגר שקבע מסמר בשידה בתיבה ובמגדל ונשבר חייב לשלם מפני שהוא כנושא שכר
נתן לחרש לעשות לו כסא ועשה לו ספסל ספסל ועשה לו כסא יד הבעלים על העליונה דברי רבי יהודה ר"מ אומר נותן לו דמי עציו
מודה ר"מ לר' יהודה שאם נותן לחרש לעשות לו כסא נאה ועשה לו כעור ספסל נאה ועשה לו כעור שיד הבעלים על העליונה.

והמוליך חטין לטחון ולא לתתן ועשאן מורסן וסובין קמח לנחתום ועשאו פת נפולין בשר לטבח והקדיחו חייב לשלם מפני שהוא כנושא שכר רשב"ג אומר נותן לו דמי בושתו ובושת אורחיו.
המוסר בהמתו לטבח ונבלה אומן פטור הדיוט חייב ונושא שכר בין זה ובין זה חייב.
המראה דינר לשולחני ונמצא רע חייב לשלם מפני שהוא כנושא שכר.

Note: Look at Mishna which led off with אומנין and discuss the ambiguity of the term - uman as opposed to hired laborer (as e.g. Rav Assi), uman as someone who takes pay (chinam vs. nosei sachar), uman as someone who is an expert (and therefore either is not guilty of malpractice, or else someone who should be responsible since people rely on him), someone who is a real expert (like the expert slaughterers of Tzipori or perhaps Dancho and Issar).


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