Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Fasting on the 17th of Tammuz, pt vi

In the previous segment, we began to discuss Ramban's position on fasting on the 17th of Tammuz and on the 9th of Av. We carefully analyzed his words, and suggested that did not mean that shalom meant that the Temple was standing, but rather that this happened to be the time that shalom was extant. If so, nowadays, we could claim, as with Rashi, that we have shalom without the Temple yet standing.

But there is more to analyze in this Ramban. Specifically, his unique understanding and parsing of רצו מתענין רצו אין מתענין. To this end, I provide once again the translation of the excerpt taken from Ramban's Toras HaAdam. We resume discussion after the translation.

{First a paraphrase[?] of the gemara}:
Rav Pappa said: At a time that there is peace, it is made into joy. At a time that there is tzara, it is made into a fast-day. And nowadays {ha`idna} {by this, he refers to the "nowadays" of Rav Pappa, rather than the present day in the time of the Ramban}, that there is no peace and there is no tzara, if they want they fast, and if they want they do not fast. If so, Tisha BeAv as well {why should they send out}? Why does the Mishna state "upon six months the messengers go out -- on Av, because of the fast day? Rav Pappa said: Tisha BeAv is different, since the tzarot were doubled on it.

{Now he gives interjections into the preceding text.}
The explanation of:
"there is peace" -- this was in the time that the Temple was standing.

"there is no peace" -- such as {kegon} at the time of the destruction.

"and there is no tzara" -- in {any} known place in Yisrael.

"if they want" -- most of Israel, and they have a consensus

"not to fast" -- we do not bother them to fast, and messengers do not go out.

"if they want" -- most of of the community {here he uses the word tzibbur}

"to fast, they fast" -- and nowadays {veAchshav -- and here, Ramban means in Ramban's day, or perhaps in earlier generations of post-Talmudic times, but certainly not in Rav Pappa's day}, the majority of the community {tzibbur} wants {ratzu}, and is accustomed, to fast, and they have accepted it upon themselves. Therefore, it is forbidden for an individual {yachid} to breach their fence.

And all the more so in these generations, for behold, because of our sins, tzaros have increased in Israel, and there is no peace. Therefore, all are obligated to fast, from the words of kabbalah {=Neviim} and the institution of Neviim. {For it is not that middle ground Rav Pappa laid out.}
End excerpt of the Ramban.

There is a decided difference between the parse of the Ran and the parse of the Ramban. To remind you of Ran -- he felt that in Rav Pappa's days, even though in general everyone fasted, it had the status of reshut. In the phrase רצו מתענין רצו אין מתענין, though he does not state so explicitly, he takes the phrase as a whole. Thus, ratzu mis'anin means the same thing as ratzu ein mitanin. If you choose to, you may fast. If you choose to, you may not fast. They are flip sides of the same coin. Taken as a whole, the entire phrase translates to reshus. As Ran says in his commentary on the side of the Rif:
מתענין רצו אין מתענין. פירוש וכיון דרשות הוא לא מטרחינן שלוחין עלייהו
Thus, the entire state in Rav Pappa's day was defined as a reshut. Even though in general, the consensus was to fast, this fasting was optional, and so an individual could bow out. And the same would therefore be true nowadays, he writes.
In contrast, Ramban takes the phrase into its parts. That is, there are not three states but rather four. In רצו מתענין רצו אין מתענין, there is the state of רצו מתענין, and there is the state of רצו אין .מתענין In Rav Pappa's day, the state was רצו אין מתענין, because the general consensus of people was not to fast. And רצו means the majority of the nation of Israel. And it was specifically because of this they they did not impose the fast on everyone by sending out messengers.

However, Rav Pappa was already speaking of a potential time (in the future) where the consensus of the global Jewish majority was to fast. In such a case, of רצו מתענין, it is an obligation to fast, and an individual must go along and not be poreitz the geder they would establish. In such times, presumably, they would indeed have sent out messengers.

Ran objected to this interpretation on the practical grounds that it seemed from the gemara's question why not to send out in Tammuz that the general consensus of practice was indeed to fast.

I believe that on literary grounds, we can also discriminate between these two options. That is, regardless of the widespread practice in the time of the gemara, and Rav Pappa, what are the merits, from a linguistic perspective, of reading רצו מתענין רצו אין מתענין as a single statement meaning reshus? And what are the merits of reading רצו מתענין רצו אין מתענין as two separate states?

After reading the gemara over several times both ways, my sense is that Ran's rendition of the phrase is more compelling, and plausible, and that Ramban's rendition is less compelling, and somewhat awkward. As such, if I were ruling {but note that this is all not intended halacha lemaaseh}, I would rule in favor of Ran over Ramban. Therefore, even today, it is a reshut, and someone can opt out of fasting on the 17th of Tammuz. (If we do not say, as we said before, that nowadays it is forbidden to fast.)

Note that I am not necessarily convinced that it was widespread practice to fast in Rav Pappa's days. In fact, I think it is quite possible that in Mishnaic, post-Temple times, people did not generally choose to fast on the 17th of Tammuz. Even so, there should be no change in its state as reshut (unless we go the route that Maariv took).

Here is a point I do not want to lose, so I will stick it in here. What about the 9th of Av? Does reshut apply there? I could read the gemara in two ways. When we have in the gemara in Rosh haShana:
אי הכי ט"ב נמי אמר רב פפא שאני ט"ב הואיל והוכפלו בו צרות
, do we understand
אי הכי ט"ב נמי as "if so, Tisha BeAv should also be a reshut, and by extension from this, they should not have sent messengers in Av?" Or do we understand it as "since Tisha BeAv is indeed also a reshut, they should not have sent messengers in Av?" If the former, then by answering שאני ט"ב הואיל והוכפלו בו צרות, Rav Pappa would be giving a reason it is not a reshut. If the latter, he could be explaining why they in fact sent out messengers -- despite the fact that it was a reshut, because הוכפלו בו צרות, in general people kept it, and so it was worth it to trouble the messengers to go out. (Other gemaras would then be imposed on top of that.) This would tie in to the question of general practice on the 17th of Tammuz in the days of the Mishna and in the days of Rav Pappa, which is why I saw fit to put this digression here.

At any rate, forgetting this digression, let us return to the two parses of רצו מתענין רצו אין מתענין, as either a single statement (Ran), or a composite statement of two (Ramban).

This might be determinable by analyzing how the phrase Ratzu X Ratzu Y is used in general throughout the gemara. I do not believe that the weight in general is on the word ratzu, to mean widespread acceptance. Rather, when we have Ratzu X Ratzu Y, there is an either/or choice before people, and they are free to choose either X or Y. If so, this would be further evidence that Ran is correct and Ramban is incorrect.

But we need to go through each of these cases.

One excellent case occurs in Sanhedrin 11a. The speaker in this case is none other than Rav Pappa, the same speaker as in Rosh Hashana. In Sanhedrin 11a, we find:
מיתיבי כמה עיבור השנה שלשים יום רבן שמעון בן גמליאל אומר חדש אמר רב פפא רצו חדש רצו שלשים יום
Or, taking the Soncino translation:
An objection was raised: How long a period was intercalated in the year? Thirty days. R. Simeon b. Gamaliel said: A month {which is equal to 29 days}? — R. Papa said: [The matter is left to the judgment of the intercalary court:] if they wish, they may add a month; or if they wish thirty days.
The idea is not that there is some consensus of all of Israel, and then one of the choices is compelled, consistently. Rather, in the construction ratzu X ratzu Y, as used by Rav Papa himself, it means that when they come to intercalate, they can either choose to add 29 days or 30 days, and it is up to them at that point in time.

I believe this gemara in Sanhedrin is sufficient by itself to favor Ran over Ramban in their respective parses, but we may continue.

In Zevachim 103b, in terms of the behavior of the kohanim vis a vis the hides of certain korbanot which are gifts to the kohanim:
חטאת ואשם וזבחי שלמי ציבור מתנה לכהן רצו מפשיטין אותן לא רצו אוכלין אותן ע"ג עורן
This is not based on minhag, such that subsequently one behavior is required. Rather, the point is that they may either opt for X (flaying them) or Y (eating them upon their hide). This is slightly different because it is ratzu, X, lo ratzu, Y. This is indeed a somewhat different construction, and perhaps we should not extrapolate from it.

But we have Sanhedrin 34b:
דאמר רב יהודה אמר רב שלשה שנכנסו לבקר את החולה רצו כותבין רצו עושין דין שנים כותבין ואין עושין דין
Or in Soncino's translation:
Rab Judah said in Rab's name, viz.: If three [persons] come to visit a sick man, they may, according to their desire, either record [his bequest] {as witnesses}, or render a judicial ruling {as a bet din, since they are three}. In case of two, however, they may write it down, but not render a judicial ruling.
The idea here is that they may choose either X or Y, at their own discretion. We should understand it similarly in our gemara about fasting, and not grant special weight to the former or the latter clause. (The same gemara occurs in Bava Kamma 113b.)

Another occurrence of the pattern Ratzu X Ratzu Y in Gittin 58b:
מיתיבי זו משנה ראשונה ב"ד של אחריהן אמרו הלוקח מן הסיקריקון נותן לבעלים רביע ויד בעלים על העליונה רצו בקרקע נוטלין רצו במעות נוטלין
Or using Soncino's translation:
This was the first Mishnah. The succeeding Beth din laid down that one who purchases from the sicaricon gives to the original owner a fourth, the latter having his choice of taking the payment either in land or in money.
Once again, the idea of Ratzu X Ratzu Y is that at the present moment, there is an option before someone, who can choose either one or the other.

The next example is not strictly of the pattern of Ratzu X Ratzu Y, because the second Ratzu is missing. However, this may still be exceptionally relevant because it occurs in Rosh haShanah 19b, which is just one daf after our gemara in Rosh HaShanah, 18b. Furthermore, it is about a calendrical institution by, among others, Zechariah the prophet.
רב נחמן בר חסדא העיד רבי סימאי משום חגי זכריה ומלאכי על שני אדרים שאם רצו לעשותן שניהן מלאין עושין שניהן חסרין עושין אחד מלא ואחד חסר עושין וכך היו נוהגין בגולה
Perhaps the second ratzu was omitted because of the length of each option, or alternatively because there are three options instead of only two. But the idea is that whatever they choose of these three options, in terms of making the first and the second month of Adar malei or chaser, they may do.

One final example, in Eruvin 59b:
תורת פתח עליו בסולם שבין שתי חצירות רצו אחד מערב רצו שנים מערבין
Depending on the desires of the residents of the two adjoining courtyards, they can either make a separate or joint eruv. Thus, they are free to choose either option X or option Y.

Given all this precedent, it is, IMHO, extremely difficult to read our gemara in Rosh HaShanah differently, in a way which is also more awkward. I would say at this point "tiyuvta deRamban tiyuvta."

While we are at it, I might as well throw in that Rabbenu Chananel clearly parses רצו מתענין רצו אין מתענין in accord with Ran and against Ramban. (Click on the picture to see him larger.) Rabbenu Chananel writes: "if there is no gezeira and no shalom -- like now, bizman hazeh -- if they want they fast, if they want, they do not fast. And since if they wanted to not fast on them, there is no obligation upon them, therefore, the messengers do not go out on them."

It is clear that he reads the entire phrase as a single phrase. And he assumes that they were indeed fasting, but the status was reshut. And were they to choose, they could opt out. And this was why they did not send out the messengers. Furthermore, he defines it as kemo ata, bizman hazeh. This indicates that he considers Rav Pappa's time to be halachically equivalent to our time, in accordance with Ran, and against Ramban.

In terms of Rashi, he could theoretically be read either way, because when he says "reshut," the dibbur hamatchil is only on ain mitananin. Still, I think Rashi's point is that since if they want, they need not fast, therefore, as he writes, they do not bother to send out the messengers. This would be like Rabbenu Chananel just said. Further, there is a slight divergence in Ramban. He does not say that they did not bother to send out messengers, or bother the messengers. Rather, he says that we are not matriach the people to cause them to fast. Rashi does not say this. Rashi seems to be in the same camp as Rabbenu Chananel and Ran. Furthermore, as we shall see, Rambam also parses the phrase in the same way as Ran.

I think at this point we do not need to be choshesh for the Ramban's position. (Of course, this is not halacha lemaaseh.) But Ran earlier equated Rambam with Ramban, and least in terms of conclusion.This position will have to be salvaged by going another route, as we will see. And so, in the next segment I will discuss Rambam.

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