Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Learner/Burner Question -- part 5

Read the previous parts:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

"We Are Dealing With A Student Standing Before His Teacher"

How are to resolve this difficulty of conflicting Tannaitic sources? On one side of the divide, the brayta states that one must not stop learning to physically destroy chametz but should rather nullify it. On the other side of the divide, the Tosefta clearly states that one should stop learning in order to physically destroy chametz, and derives from this the first law of the Mishna, which leads one to conclude that the Mishna is in agreement that one should stop learning in order to physically destroy chametz.

There are typically three paths to resolving apparent Tannaitic contradictions. One can claim that the sources are dealing with different cases. One can claim that this is in fact a matter of Tannaitic dispute. Or, one can emend the text of one of the sources, claiming that it was reported wrong.

I would posit that Rav Yaakov bar Acha was troubled by the apparent conflict between Tannaitic sources which we have discovered. The brayta argues with a stam mishna as well as with a Tosefta! His answer is that הכא בתלמיד יושב לפני רבו עסקינן. That is, the case in the brayta which states that one should not leave the study hall but should rather simply nullify is dealing with a student sitting in front of his teacher. There is the honor due his teacher as well as the opportunity to gain important Torah knowledge he might otherwise not gain. Staying before his teacher is so critical that it is just like the case of להציל מן הנכרים ומן הנהר ומן הלסטים ומן הדליקה ומן המפולת! Therefore, he should not leave the study hall but rather he should immediately nullify it in his heart.

Indeed, as the gemara notes, this can be derived from close analysis of the brayta.
דיקא נמי דקתני היה יושב בתוך בית המדרש שמע מינה
After all, the brayta begins היה יושב בבית המדרש (footnote: or, according to the gemara's citation, היה יושב בתוך בית המדרש) and the word יושב can have a technical meaning of someone "sitting" before his teacher. Indeed, in the Tosefta we cited above, we have Rabbi Eleazar bar Tzadok and his father sitting before Rabban Gamliel in the study hall, thus demonstrating this usage:
פעם אחת [היינו יושבין לפני רבן גמליאל בבית המדרש בלוד]ש
With the brayta referring to this specific case, there is no contradiction with sources that suggest that one should break from typical learning in order to physically remove chametz.

Thus, we resolve the contradiction in Tannaitic sources, and we also match Rav Yaakov bar Acha's answer with its appropriate question.

I would posit that Rav Yaakov bar Acha is not the only one who sees this contradiction between the Mishna and the brayta and proposes this solution. I would suggest that the Yerushalmi on this Mishna does so as well.

The Yerushalmi Pesachim 23b-24a has a cryptic statement which is interpreted in a rather forced manner by the commentators. It states:
אפילו יכול לחזור ולבער ולילך ולהציל
אפילו יכול לילך ולשבות לחזור ולבטל
שאין שביתת הרשות אצל רבו או אצל מי שהוא גדול ממנו בחכמה.
כך שנה רבי המעשה קודם לתלמוד. נמנו בעליית בית אריס בלוד התלמוד קודם למעשה
...
This citation begins by explaining the Mishna that even if he has time to destroy his chametz and return to do the saving, he should not, but rather he should immediately nullify the chametz and proceed to save. Similarly, for the third category, something that is entirely voluntary, even if he has enough time to do the voluntary act before physically removing the chametz, he should immediately physically destroy the chametz. Note that the printed editions of the Yerushalmi have the girsa as אפילו יכול לילך ולשבות לחזור ולבטל, but as cited in the dibbur hamatchil of the Penei Moshe and as is evident from the comment of the Korban haEidah, the girsa before them was אפילו יכול לילך ולשבות לחזור ולבער.

What is unclear is the role of the statement שאין שביתת הרשות אצל רבו או אצל מי שהוא גדול ממנו בחכמה. Why is the Yerushalmi suddenly discussing someone sitting by his teacher or someone greater than himself. And why would we think this is שביתת הרשות?

Korban haEidah explains this cryptic statement as a question. Of course, everyone knows that when the Mishna stated the third category, ולשבות שביתת הרשות יחזור מיד, it was speaking about someone going to greet his teacher! (How this was obvious is unclear.) But, we all know that שאין ,שביתת הרשות אצל רבו או אצל מי שהוא גדול ממנו בחכמה greeting his teacher or someone greater than him in wisdom is not a voluntary matter. The answer is that this is Rabbi Yehuda haNasi who redacted the Mishna, and he holds that המעשה קודם לתלמוד. Learning is equated here with greeting one's teacher, and thus it falls under the category of שביתת הרשות.

In my opinion, this interpretation of this cryptic phrase is quite forced. It does not seem at first glance like a question.

Penei Moshe has a slightly less forced explanation of this cryptic phrase. He claims it is a separate statement. The third category in the Mishna was שביתת הרשות. One might think that travelling to his teacher or to one greater than him in wisdom in order to learn Torah would be considered שביתת הרשות. Therefore it tells us that it is not שביתת הרשות but rather is obligatory. Indeed, initially Rabbi Yehuda haNasi held that המעשה קודם לתלמוד. However, when they voted in Lud (Lydda) that התלמוד קודם למעשה, Rabbi Yehuda haNasi reversed his opinion to agree with them. Therefore this should not be listed as שביתת הרשות.

It is interesting to note that the incident mentioned in the Tosefta, in which Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Eleazar bar Tzadok, and his father all left off learning in order to destroy the chametz, also occurred in Lud.

Ridvaz quotes the Rosh who has an alternate girsa of this Yerushalmi. Instead of שאין שביתת הרשות אצל רבו או אצל מי שהוא גדול ממנו בחכמה, the Rosh has מהו שביתת הרשות? ההולך אצל רבו או מי שהוא גדול ממנו בחכמה. כאו שנה רבי וכו. Thus, by removing שאין and replacing it with מהו, we have a place in the gemara where they establish going to his teacher and learning as רשות. The transition to Rabbi Yehuda haNasi's opinion about the primacy of action over study, which explains why he considers it a רשות, is then quite smooth. Of course, we need to consider whether the Rosh actually had this girsa or proposed this as what the text should read.

I would propose another solution to all of this. The Yerushalmi is aware of apparently conflicting Tannaitic sources on the matter. The case of typical study in the study hall is not enough to avoid physical destruction of chametz. While it is a mitzvah, it is not a passing mitzvah like slaughtering the Pesach sacrifice. There is therefore no issue of not having enough time to return to complete the mitzvah of learning. Therefore, one should conduct himself regarding it in the same way he would conduct himself if he were performing a wholly voluntary act -- he should destroy the chametz and then return to his learning.

However, there is also the brayta which states that one who is sitting in the study hall and remembers that he has chametz in his house should not leave the study hall but should rather nullify it in his heart. I would suggest that just like Rav Yaakov bar Acha, the Yerushalmi deduced from the word יושב that it meant someone sitting before his teacher. In such a case, this is no mere or voluntary act. There is a critical aspect to this, שאין שביתת הרשות אצל רבו או אצל מי שהוא גדול ממנו בחכמה.

It is true that the brayta is not explicitly cited, but I would suggest that it was in the body of Tannatic works before them when they wrote the Yerushalmi. (The Mishna was recorded separately from the Yerushalmi and the Bavli that comments on it, so perhaps this brayta or something similar was in the "Mishna" before them.)

Of course, the problem with this resolution of the contradiction in Tannaitic sources as given by Rav Yaakov bar Acha and the Yerushalmi is that the Tosefta is also a case of people sitting אצל רבו או אצל מי שהוא גדול ממנו בחכמה, yet they leave the study hall in order to destroy their chametz. I believe that the answer to this is that it was Zonin, the deputy to Rabban Gamliel, who came and told them that the time had arrived to destroy the chametz. Zonin was nt simply doing Rabbi Eleazar bar Tzadok and his father a favor. They were sitting before Rabban Gamliel. Presumably, Rabban Gamliel wished to study Torah and told his deputy to inform him when the time to destroy chametz had arrived. For Rabban Gamliel, there was no issue of sitting אצל רבו או אצל מי שהוא גדול ממנו בחכמה. Therefore, when the time came, he left to physically destroy his chametz. If Rabban Gamliel was not staying, then it was no longer an issue of sitting אצל רבו או אצל מי שהוא גדול ממנו בחכמה for Rabbi Eleazar bar Tzadok and his father either, but just one of studying Torah, and so they would also leave. Meanwhile, the case of the brayta is one in which he is sitting in the study hall before his teacher and he remembers that he has chametz in his house. This is not specifically the time of destroying chametz, and so presumably his teacher has already destroyed his own chametz.

2 comments:

Carl said...

The Learner/Burner Question is an excellent series. I wonder if you have given any thought to copyright or a Creative Commons license (such as permission to use, unchanged, with attribution)? I would like to use this series with my chevrusa and perhaps a study group but do not want to violate your wishes.

joshwaxman said...

Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it.
Well, all these posts are a *very* rough first draft of a paper I'm going to eventually hand in to Dr. Hurvitz (for one of several papers I owe him), and eventually, I hope to publish it in a journal.
I wouldn't mind your using this with your chavruta or study group.
Kol Tuv.

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