Monday, January 24, 2011

Kefar Kanya, and the Authenticity of the Zohar

Summary: Debunking another debunking. To assert based on a gemara in Kiddushin that Rav was a businessman seems rather strange. Here are some earlier posts responding to the article on the basis of Rabbi Yesa, Rabbi Abba, and Cappadocia, as mentioned in the Zohar

Post: As part of his general rebuttal of anachronisms in the Zohar put forth by various scholars, Rabbi Moshe Miller writes that these scholars seem unaware of basic sources. As part of his defense, he discusses Kfar Kanya. I don't find this particular "proof" against the Zohar's authenticity too convincing, and that is fine. Not every piece of evidence is equally persuasive.

He writes:
Kfar Kanya: This is found once and only in one version of the Zohar (vol. 3, p. 42b): (Rabbi Abba was on his way to Kfar Kanya). This village is not mentioned anywhere else, and so the academics view its existence with suspicion. In response to the argument that other versions of the Zoharhave a different reading -"Rabbi Abba was on a business trip", Scholem comments that R. Abba was not known from any source as a businessman. This is incorrect: From Kiddushin 59a it is clear that R. Abba bought and sold land for a living! As for the first argument, that the village is not mentioned in other sources is weak; perhaps there was no reason to mention a small village (after all it appears only once in the Zohar, and then again only according to one version!)
The reference to this is found in the Zohar here:
4. Rabbi Aba was walking to the cave of Lod in the village of Kanya with Rabbi Yosi and Rabbi Chiya. Rabbi Yosi said, it is written, "A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband" (Mishlei 12:4). The virtuous woman is the Congregation of Yisrael, THE SHECHINAH, while, "she that acts shamefully as a rottenness in his bones" (Ibid.) refers to the heathen nations, whom the Holy One, blessed be He, cannot tolerate in the world, as written, "therefore I abhorred (Heb. akutz) them" (Vayikra 20:23), like the thorns (Heb. kotz) and thistles that give pain to man so he cannot bear them. Rabbi Aba said, It is surely so, the "virtuous woman" is the Congregation of Yisrael, who is mistress over many armies and hosts OF ANGELS that abide in the world, NAMELY ALL THE DWELLERS IN BRIYAH, YETZIRAH AND ASIYAH THAT EXPAND FROM HER. "A VIRTUOUS WOMAN" MEANS BOTH A MISTRESS AND MASTER. "a crown to her husband" IS SIMILAR TO the words, "a crown of glory (lit. 'Tiferet')" (Yeshayah 62:3), and it is all the same, SINCE TIFERET IS THE HUSBAND OF THE SHECHINAH. While they were walking Rabbi Aba said, Let us each say something about the Congregation of Yisrael.

As he notes, there is a variant reading which instead of having likfar kanya has le-prakmatya. This would then mean that he was going to handle business affairs. Let us consider the second one first. If it means business affairs, then indeed, what sort of proof is this? Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence! On the other hand, it is just the slightest bit strange, and if this was one of a number of irregularities, they might start to add up. In other words, if it seems that there are a bunch of place names which seem made up, coupled with other real place names which are not in Eretz Yisrael but mistakenly to be, then we might conclude that the author didn't know Eretz Yisrael and so fabricated it. Especially when we combine that with all sort of other evidence of late authorship, such as the use of medieval expression. So taken by itself, it is not substantial, but still the scholars should not let it pass without the slightest bit of comment.

Turning to the first reading, that it means "for business", how are we to evaluate the claim that Rabbi Abba was or was not regularly engaged in trade? The all-important question is which Rabbi Abba this is. In the story, he took Rabbi Chiya and Rabbi Yossi with him. He is supposed to be a Tanna, and it is more than a bit difficult for traditionalist when we associate him with Rav, which is why Rabbi Miller argued ineffectively against this elsewhere. I understand that Scholem assumes it is Rav and can speak about sources which exist or don't exist which have him as a businessman. But Rabbi Miller should be saying that we don't know anything about this Rabbi Abba the Tanna, but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence that he was or was not a businessman.

Instead, perhaps to attack the scholarly position, he tries to bring proof that Rav, or else Rabbi Abba, found in the gemara, was a businessman. He should make note that he is doing this leshitatam -- for if he is using this as proof, he wins the battle but loses the war, by making Rabbi Abba an Amora and thus an anachronism!

Rabbi Miller's proof that Rabbi Abba was "clearly" bought and sold land for a living is not so clear. Let us examine it. It is in Kiddushin 59a, but there are two possible mentions, and I wish to consider each in turn:

רבה בר בר חנה יהיב ליה זוזי לרב אמר זבנה ניהלי להאי ארעא אזל זבנה לנפשיה והתניא מה שעשה עשוי אלא שנהג בו מנהג רמאות באגא דאלימי הוה ליה לרב נהגי ביה כבוד לרבה בר בר חנה לא נהגי ביה כבוד איבעי ליה לאודועי סבר אדהכי והכי אתא איניש אחרינא זבין לה

To use the Point by Point Summary instead of a direct translation, so that :
(f) Rabah bar bar Chanah gave money to Rav to buy a certain land; Rav bought it for himself.
(g) Question: But the Beraisa said that this is deceitful!
(h) Answer: The residents of the area were strongarms that would not allow (most) people to buy land by them - they respected Rav and would allow him, but not Rabah bar bar Chanah.
(i) Question: Rav should have told him before buying it for himself!
(j) Answer: He was afraid that someone else would buy it in the interim.
That is, Rabba bar bar Chana sent him as a shliach, but he bought it for himself. Does that mean that he turned around and sold it to someone else for profit? Maybe he intended to farm it, making him a farmer rather than a tradesman. How does this prove that he "bought and sold land for a living"?

The next segment in the daf speaks about a Rabbi Abba, but this is not the same person as Rav, as we will see:
רב גידל הוה מהפיך בההיא ארעא אזל רבי אבא זבנה אזל רב גידל קבליה לרבי זירא אזל רבי זירא וקבליה לרב יצחק נפחא אמר ליה המתן עד שיעלה אצלנו לרגל כי סליק אשכחיה אמר ליה עני מהפך בחררה ובא אחר ונטלה הימנו מאי אמר ליה נקרא רשע ואלא מר מאי טעמא עבד הכי א"ל לא הוה ידענא השתא נמי ניתבה ניהליה מר א"ל זבוני לא מזבנינא לה דארעא קמייתא היא ולא מסמנא מילתא אי בעי במתנה נישקליה רב גידל לא נחית לה דכתיב (משלי טו, כז) ושונא מתנות יחיה רבי אבא לא נחית לה משום דהפיך בה רב גידל לא מר נחית לה ולא מר נחית לה ומיתקריא ארעא דרבנן:
Or, using the Point by Point Summary:
(k) Rav Gidal was looking to buy a land; R. Aba bought it.
1. R. Yitzchak Nafcha (to R. Aba): If a poor man is looking to get something, and someone else takes it - what do we say?
2. R. Aba: The latter is a Rasha.
3. R. Yitzchak Nafcha: So why did you buy the land Rav Gidal wanted?
4. R. Aba: I didn't know he wanted it.
5. R. Yitzchak Nafcha: You should let him buy it from you.
6. R. Aba: It is the first land I bought, it is a bad sign to sell it - he may have it as a gift.
7. Rav Gidal did not want a gift - "One who hates gifts will live"; R. Aba did not want to use it, because Rav Gidal had wanted to by it. The land was left Hefker for Chachamim.
This Rabbi Abba does not want to sell the land, because it would be a bad omen to sell the first land he bought. Clearly, he did not buy this land for the purpose of sale! He bought it to use, to farm. It is only at Rabbi Yitzchak Nafcha's urging that he would contemplate selling it, and even there he won't do it. This is clear evidence that Rabbi Abba made his business buying and selling land?

Who is this Rabbi Abba? From the give and take of the sugya, it would seem that he is a contemporary of Rav Gidel. Rav Gidel often cites Rav. So too, Rabbi Abba, his contemporary, often cites Rav. See Bava Kamma 170a-b:
If you prefer, however, it may be said [that] there is really no [need] to reverse [the reported opinions],39  but the dispute here40  is on [the question of] proving [all one's pleas];41  such as [the case] of R. Isaac b. Joseph [who] claimed [a sum of] money from R. Abba. [When] he came before R. Isaac Nappaha. [R. Abba] pleaded. 'I repaid to you in the presence of X and Y'. 'Let X and Y come', said R. Isaac to him, 'and let them give [their] evidence'. 'If they will not come', said [R. Abba] to him, 'am I not to be believed? Surely we have it as an established law [that] a loan made in the presence42  of witnesses need not be repaid43  in the presence of witnesses!' 'In this [case', R. Isaac] replied to him, 'I am of the same opinion as [that in] the reported statement of the Master.44  for R. Abba in the name of R. Adda b. Ahabah in the name of Rab said: Where one said to another, 'I paid you [your debt] in the presence of X and Y', it is necessary that X and Y should come and give evidence. 'But surely', said [R. Abba] to him,45  'R. Giddal said in the name of Rab: The halachah is in accordance with the statement of R. Simeon b. Gamaliel;46  and even Rabbi disagreed1  only in respect of proving [one's statement]!'2  'I also', replied [R. Isaac] to him, 'require3  [the evidence of your witnesses] in order to prove [your plea]'.4
So here, Rabbi Abba is cited R' Adda bar Avuha who cited Rav, and is citing Rav Gidel who cited Rav. And this in front of the same Rabbi Yitzchak Nafcha, serving in a similar role. This is thus an even later Amora than Rav. Is this who Rabbi Moshe Miller is bringing as evidence that Rabbi Abba, the contemporary of the Tannaim Rabbi Yossi and Rabbi Chiya, was a businessman?! And it is not even clear evidence that he regularly bought and sold land, as I explained above!

Perhaps the error Rabbi Miller is making is in conflating the Rav and Rabbi Abba on this daf in Kiddushin, and thus believes that he has two stories involving Rabbi Abba making a land purchase. But this is not so.

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