Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rav Yochanan, Rav Chanan, Rav Avin, on

The following is an interesting gemara. And it has a meaning one can discuss. I am not going to discuss that meaning. My dad sometimes likens this to someone pointing at something wondrous in the distance, and the foolish person focuses on the finger and not on the thing being pointed at. That is true, but focusing on the finger is sometimes necessary, to ensure that we understand who is doing the pointing, or to determine just exactly what is being pointed at.
{Bava Kamma 93a}
אמר רבי יוחנן כל המוסר דין על חבירו הוא נענש תחלה שנא' ותאמר שרי אל אברם חמסי עליך וכתיב ויבא אברהם לספוד לשרה ולבכותה
והנ"מ דאית ליה דיינא בארעא
Rabbi Yochanan said: He who invokes the judgment {of Heaven; yes, based on context, but we may interpret otherwise} against his fellow is himself punished first, as it says {Bereishit 16:5}:
ה וַתֹּאמֶר שָׂרַי אֶל-אַבְרָם, חֲמָסִי עָלֶיךָ--אָנֹכִי נָתַתִּי שִׁפְחָתִי בְּחֵיקֶךָ, וַתֵּרֶא כִּי הָרָתָה וָאֵקַל בְּעֵינֶיהָ; יִשְׁפֹּט יְהוָה, בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶיךָ. 5 And Sarai said unto Abram: 'My wrong be upon thee: I gave my handmaid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee.'
and it is written {Bereishit 23:2}:
ב וַתָּמָת שָׂרָה, בְּקִרְיַת אַרְבַּע הִוא חֶבְרוֹן--בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן; וַיָּבֹא, אַבְרָהָם, לִסְפֹּד לְשָׂרָה, וְלִבְכֹּתָהּ. 2 And Sarah died in Kiriatharba--the same is Hebron--in the land of Canaan; and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.

And these words are where there are {existing} courts in the land {to judge it}.
My question is just who the author of the statement is. In the version above, it is Rabbi Yochanan. But that is just in the Rif's girsa. In our own gemara, we have:
אמר רב חנן המוסר דין על חבירו הוא נענש תחילה שנאמר (בראשית טז) ותאמר שרי אל אברם חמסי עליך וכתיב (בראשית כג) ויבא אברהם לספוד לשרה ולבכותה והני מילי דאית ליה דינא בארעא

In Rosh HaShana 16b:
דא"ר (אבין) [חנן] כל המוסר דין על חבירו הוא נענש תחלה שנאמר (בראשית טז, ה) ותאמר שרי אל אברם חמסי עליך וכתיב (בראשית כג, ב) ויבא אברהם לספוד לשרה ולבכותה

Yalkut Shimoni (but this is no proof):
אמר רבי חנן כל המוסר דין על חברו הוא נענש תחלה שנאמר ותאמר שרי אל אברם חמסי עליך וכתיב ויבוא אברהם לספוד לשרה ולבכותה.

Thus, we have three alternatives: חנן אבין יוחנן. With three combinations, and presumably one of them (rather than some outside name not represented), we have several possible combinations, but only a few plausible combinations. The possible are that any of the three can be the original, and that original could spark both of the other two; or else that there is an original, it sparks the intermediate, and the intermediate sparks the final. Thus:

1) Yochanan to Avin; Yochanan to Chanan.
2) Yochanan to Avin; then Avin to Chanan.
3) Yochanan to Chanan; then Chanan to Avin.

4) Chanan to Yochanan; Chanan to Avin.
5) Chanan to Yochanan; then Yochanan to Avin.
6) Chanan to Avin; then Avin to Yochanan.

7) Avin to Yochanan; Avin to Chanan.
8) Avin to Yochanan; then Yochanan to Chanan.
9) Avin to Chanan; then Chanan to Yochanan.

Some of these are not as plausible as others. Thus, Avin/Chanan requires a reinterpretation of a bet as a nun, or in Chanan/Avin, a nun as a bet. There is also a disappearing or appearing yud, but that is fairly easy.

Rabbi Yochanan to Rav Chanan is fairly plausible -- the yud at the end of Rabbi and the yud at the beginning of Yochanan merge together and disappear, or are interpreted as the apostrophe in ר' חנן. The other direction seems more probable to me. רב חנן to become ר' חנן to become ר יחנן to be interpreted and rewritten as ר' יוחנן.

But some are less plausible. רבי יוחנן to רבי אבין -- well, perhaps the aleph from the yud vav, depending on the font, but then a disappearing chet and an interpretation of nun as bet? There are so many more edit operations that need to be done to accomplish this transformation, in either direction. Therefore, I would discard any transformations involving a link between Avin and Yochanan. Thus, I would discard, off the bat: 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8.

We are then left with three possibilities:
3) Yochanan to Chanan; then Chanan to Avin.
4) Chanan to Yochanan; Chanan to Avin.
9) Avin to Chanan; then Chanan to Yochanan.

Of these three remaining, all are somewhat plausible, but I would favor (4). This for two reasons. First, each of these options, it is true, involves two transformations. What is more likely, though, that a text goes through one transformation, and then independently, that transformed text goes through a further transformation; or alternatively, that a single text, with some "difficulty" in it, prompts to different corruptions?

This might be quite subjective, but my inclination is that the latter is most plausible, with Chanan standing as the nexus.

Furthermore, I would point out that under the principle of lectio difficilior, the rule of the more "difficult" word being original, I would guess Rav Chanan to be the most "difficult." Certainly Rav Chanan is less common than Rabbi Yochanan. And I would say the same for Rabbi Avin.

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