In the first article, Rabbi Buch does not much challenge the idea that Abaye's statement is made by Abaye, but reinterprets it as an attack on the position put forth in the brayta.
That is, the brayta as encoded in Bavli (and similarly in Yerushalmi) reads that
תנו רבנן הרואה חמה בתקופתה לבנה בגבורתה וכוכבים במסילותם ומזלות כסדרן אומר ברוך עושה בראשית
Abaye explains as follows:
ואימת הוי אמר אביי כל כ"ח שנין והדר מחזור ונפלה תקופת ניסן בשבתאי באורתא דתלת נגהי ארבע:
The objection, in the article, to this is that Abaye's interpretation of beTekufasah is based on Biblical Hebrew rather than that of Mishnaic Hebrew.
Since leshon Chachamim leAtzman and leshon Torah leAtzmah
this constitutes a major flaw in Abaye's explanation of the brayta. Unless of course we reinterpret Abaye's statement such that it is is NOT an explanation of tekufah in the brayta, as indeed the article does.
I would not agree that this is a major flaw in the standard understanding of Abaye's statement. After all, as Rabbi Buch discusses elsewhere in the same article, each of the modifiers in the brayta -- tekufah, mesilotam, etc., is drawn from a pasuk. And we contrast that with the Tosefta which does not have these modifiers. Abaye (or "Abaye") could have spotted these modifiers, noted that they were drawn from pesukim, and concluded that what the author of the brayta intended Biblical usage of these terms, rather than leshon Chachamim. And then, leshon mikra is entirely appropriate!
Furthermore, I don't really agree that Abaye is even using leshon Torah as opposed to leshon Chachamim. Consider Sanhedrin 13a:
אי קסברי יום תקופה גומר בלאו הכי נמי לא למ"ד כוליה חג איכא ולא למאן דאמר מקצת חג איכא אלא קסברי יום תקופה מתחילAs Rashi explains it:
אי קסברי יום תקופה גומר - יום שהתקופה נופלת בו הוא גמר תקופה שעברה ואינה מתקופה חדשה...ש
That is, the gemara will discuss the yom tekufah, the day that the "tekufah" falls out on. Sure, usually it designates an entire 1/4 of a year, but that is because of a certain astronomical event that occurs on the first day of that "tekufah". That is, there are two equinoxes and two solstices in the year, and these are turning points in the sun's movement in the sky. A solstice when it reaches its northmost or southmost extreme, and an equinox when the sun is at its zenith over the equator. This is a fixed, finite, astronomical event. And one can refer to the day in which the "tekufah" falls, which is the beginning (or alternatively, end) of a tekufah.
Abaye is talking about such a celestial event. He understands it as the vernal equinox, which is then the beginning of a specific movement. But then restricts it to a specific vernal equinox. This is not necessarily adopting leshon Torah instead of leshon Chachamim.
(Furthermore, there might well be a difference between tekufot haShanah and tekufat haChamah, such that the word tekufah can have something other than its usual meaning. The Sun has a specific tekufah, which may be a circle, while the year has various tekufot, based on that.)
Further, the author of the article offers his own interpretation of the brayta as the authentic interpretation, while that of Abaye is (presumably) a misinterpretation. Unless of course Abaye wasn't interpreting but arguing. But interpretations of braytot can be quite subjective.
I disagree with the interpretation of the brayta. Rav Buch cites the Tosefta in Brachot:
And makes the claim that the brayta in our Bavli and Yerushalmi is of the same opinion. Therefore, that the brayta in Bavli means that one should bless the sun every time he sees it. Yet, the Tosefta in full (and he cites this part towards the end of this article is):
Rabbi Yuda is of the position that one should NOT always be blessing the sun. Maybe one should never bless the sun, or maybe one should not be doing it every time.
Who is the Tanna of our brayta? Rabbi Buch claims it is the same as the Tanna Kamma of the Tosefta. And so, it means that one should always bless the sun, moon, sky, etc. And Abaye is arguing on the entire halacha, and setting a new fixed time for all the berachot on all the sights in the brayta.
But another interpretation, which strikes me as more logical, is that the Tanna of the brayta is Rabbi Yehuda (who says, in context, that one blesses on the sea lifrakim, at intervals). The problem is the "tadir" aspect of it. But on occasion, one can and should bless.
If so, it is not just creative, nonsensical and null additions to the brayta with all these modifiers, but rather we are told just what perakim one should bless on. The sun in its tekufah, the moon in its tekufah, or perhaps in its largeness, when it is biggest; or according to Yerushalmi, when it is newest. The kochavim in their paths and the mazalot in their time.
Rabbi Buch argues that these modifiers are nonsensical, and are therefore null. Or to be more precise, these are just flowery additions to match the source pasuk in Tanach. Thus:
But just because we cannot understand a fixed time does not mean that it does not exist. For example, he dismisses the mazalot beItam because the mazalot are always in their time. But this is simply incorrect! Read about the Zodiac.
In astrology, the zodiac denotes those signs that divide the ecliptic into twelve equal zones of celestial longitude. As such, the zodiac is a celestial coordinate system, to be more precise, an ecliptic coordinate system, taking the ecliptic as the origin of latitude, and the position of the sun at vernal equinox as the origin of longitude...
The Babylonian calendar as it stood in the 7th century BC assigns each month a constellation, beginning with the position of the Sun at vernal equinox, which, at the time, was the Aries constellation ("Age of Aries"), for which reason the first astrological sign is still called "Aries" even after the vernal equinox has moved away from the Aries constellation due to the slow precession of the Earth's orbit around the Sun. A scientific analysis of the constellations suggests Aries' was located at the vernal equinox at the time of the Bronze Age (~2700 BC),thereby suggesting an earlier establishment of the constellations.
Read it in detail, and you will see that the mazalot, the signs of the zodiac, had everything to do with the position of the Sun in its path across the sky over the course of the year. Thus:
In astronomy, the zodiac (Greek: ζῳδιακός, zōdiakos) is the ring of constellations that lines the ecliptic, which is the apparent path of the Sun across the sky over the course of the year.There absolutely are times to the mazalot. And just because a very late Acharon cannot determine the meaning of "its time" does not mean that "its time" doesn't exist. If so, we have a meaning for the tefukah of the sun, for the largeness of the moon, and for the time of each mazal. What the stars in their paths means is yet to be determined (e.g. comets, shooting stars? perhaps when the constellation you are looking at reaches a certain ascendant position, or specific "meaningful" checkpoints in its yearly circular path?), but I would rather assume that it does in fact have a meaning, since all the other phrases in the brayta have meaning.
Even if we dismiss Abaye, for other reasons, we should still assume that the brayta as it appears in the Bavli and Yerushalmi meant to refer to a specific time, and this would likely be the vernal equinox. Abaye bases himself on the calendar of Shmuel, which is inaccurate, and by our time is well off of the vernal equinox. But that does not mean that we should reject the brayta cited lehalacha in both the Bavli and Yerushalmi and not make this blessing during the actual vernal equinox.
That the setama which introduces Abaye's statement does not specify which portion of the brayta his comment is on -- that does not convince me at all. Firstly, it is the first portion of the brayta, so it may readily be inferred that that is what he is commenting on. Furthermore, Abaye's statement uses the term tekufah, so it would be even more apparent.
(Also, to claim out of the blue that Abaye's statement, or the setama's statement, is intended to argue with the brayta is a bit surprising. In general, late Amoraim do not argue with braytot, particularly braytot they know about, such as here, where Abaye is purportedly commenting and arguing on this brayta. This is mitigated by the claim that , but it would have to be for me a lot more than "efshar". We would need to definitively make this assertion, rather than leaving it as a possibility. It is also interesting that the give and take of the gemara does not recognize that Abaye's statement is a rejection of the brayta, and ask what his Tannaitic basis is. Still, it is a possibility. However, I do believe that as I set it up, with the Tanna of the present brayta being roughly equivalent to Rabbi Yehuda in the Tosefta, everything works out much more neatly and less farfetchedly.)
I apologize for the scattered nature of this post, but it is a reaction. It probably makes more sense if you read the article first.
At any rate, this is my reaction to the first of the two articles. While there was some good research that went into this, I disagree almost entirely with the sevara that went into it. The second article presents a somewhat stronger argument, which I will try to make even stronger, before explaining where and how I differ. But that is for a subsequent post.