Tuesday, September 10, 2013

masechet Rosh Hashanah: disappearing midwives and individual shofar blowing during the silent Amidah

Two days before Rosh Hashanah, in honor of Rosh Hashanah, I learned through maseches Rosh Hashanah on the train. I used an illustrated one that I picked up at last year's YU Seforim sale, Mishnayos Meiros, and it was nice.
There were plenty of illustrations, perhaps to excess. Some masechtos really require many illustrations to get the point across, e.g. Succah and Shabbos. And then, when something is not illustrated, you chance not understanding it. Other masechtos don't really lend themselves to illustrations. For Rosh Hashanah, as I said, there were plenty. Some unnecessary. E.g. if the Mishna mentions a fruit tree, need I really show a tree with fruit, because otherwise we would not know? Where the regalim are mentioned, need we really have a picture of a Matza, and Mountain, and a Lulav, to show Pesach, Shavuos, and Succos? I was amused, but still, it is better to err on the side of more pictures.

One thing then stuck out like a sore thumb. A Mishna (2:6) detailed people to whom we grant techum Shabbos at their destination, and naturally, every case is illustrated:

ב,ו  בראשונה, לא היו זזים משם כל היום; התקין רבן גמליאל הזקן, שיהו מהלכין אלפיים אמה לכל רוח.  ולא אלו בלבד, אלא אף החכמה הבאה לילד, והבא להציל מיד הגיס, מיד הנהר, מיד הדליקה, מיד המפולת--הרי אלו כאנשי העיר, ויש להן אלפיים אמה לכל רוח.

Well, except one. Can you guess which?

Yes, they skip right over החכמה הבאה לילד. I suppose they thought it would not be tzniusdik to show a woman in labor. But they did not have to show the baby crowning. They could have the pregnant woman in the background and the midwife rushing to help her, just as the fellow in the picture above is rushing towards the fire. Unless they won't show any pictures of women at all, because of tznius considerations...

I also had an interesting (and compelling) thought about the very last Mishna:

ד,ט  סדר תקיעות, שלוש של שלוש שלוש.  שיעור תקיעה, כדי שלוש תרועות; שיעור תרועה, כדי שלוש יבבות.  תקע בראשונה, ומשך בשנייה כשתיים--אין בידו אלא אחת.  מי שבירך, ואחר כך נזדמן לו שופר--תוקע ומריע ותוקע, תוקע ומריע ותוקע, שלושה פעמים.  כשם ששליח ציבור חייב, כך כל יחיד ויחיד חייב; רבן גמליאל אומר, שליח ציבור מוציא את הרבים ידי חובתן. 

"Just as the Shliach Tzibbur is obligated, so is each individual obligated. Rabban Gamliel says: The Shliach Tzibbur fulfills the obligation on behalf of the community."

The standard commentaries and translations render this as referring to the obligation to say the Amidah. This in light of the gemara on the Mishna, which cites a brayta which elaborates.

However, based on the surrounding context, it really seems like pashut peshat in the Mishna is that it is referring to blowing the shofar. That is, the Amida involves the blessings of Malchuyot, Zichronot and Shofarot, which are accompanied by shofar blasts. One might think that since the individuals are saying this in their private Amida, they should also blow the shofar. And indeed, this is what the Tanna Kamma says. But Rabban Gamliel argues and say that the Amida + shofar blasts in chazaras haShatz covers them.

To support this idea that each individual was blowing the shofar, see the previous Mishna for more context:

 אין מעכבין את התינוקות מלתקוע, ומתעסקין עימהם כדי שילמדו.  והמתעסק, לא יצא; והשומע מן המתעסק, לא יצא.

Why is chinuch of children to blow the shofar so important, if it is done by only a single person on behalf of the community? But the children are engaged in blowing the shofar, and people are engaged in teaching them to blow. This indicates that there is widespread shofar blowing going on. (Not necessarily in the course of prayer, though.)

Further, see Rosh Hashanah 29b:
1. (Rabah) Everyone is obligated to blow Shofar, but not everyone is competent to do so.
2. There is therefore a concern that a person might carry it on Shabbos to an expert for instruction.
3. It is for this reason that the Rabanan forbade Lulav and Megilah on Shabbos.

Note that he is bringing it to the expert for instruction. Not that he could hear it from the expert, but that he should be able to blow it for himself. If he could hear and fulfill, and this was an ideal situation, why the assumption that he should learn how to blow?

What about the gemara, and the brayta? I would say we should try to see if we can interpret the brayta in light of this understanding of the Mishna.

כשם ששליח צבור חייב כך כל יחיד ויחיד וכו':  תניא אמרו לו לרבן גמליאל לדבריך למה צבור מתפללין אמר להם כדי להסדיר שליח צבור תפלתו אמר להם רבן גמליאל לדבריכם למה שליח צבור יורד לפני התיבה אמרו לו כדי להוציא את שאינו בקי אמר להם כשם שמוציא את שאינו בקי כך מוציא את הבקי

"The learnt in a brayta: They said to Rabban Gamliel: According to you, why do the congregation pray? He said to them: so that the Shliach Tzibbur can arrange his prayer. Rabban Gamliel said to them: According to you, why does the Shliach Tzibbur descend before the ark? They said to him: So that he should fulfill for whoever is not an expert. He said to them: Just as he fulfills for the non-expert, so he fulfills for the expert."

So the context clearly seems to be prayer rather than shofar blasts. But try to interpret it otherwise. Namely, since the performance of the shofar blasts are part of the prayer, their individual prayer is nothing. So why pray? Answers Rabban Gamliel, to give the Shliach Tzibbur time to prepare.

He said to them: Why does the Shliach tzibur descend before the ark, if each individual must blow for himself as part of his prayer? They said: To fulfill for he who is not a baki, and expert.

Note the use of בקי, which should mean an expert in shofar blowing. [However, or also, see the discussion in the Yerushalmi over whether people should be expected to be experts in shofar blowing or the nusach hatefilla of Rosh Hashana specifically.]

This would make for a very interesting Rosh Hashana davening, I think, where everyone comes to shul with his shofar and blows during the silent Amidah.


Gabriel M said...

The most pertinent reason for explaining the Mishnah to be referring to tefilah and not the shofar, is that the Yerushalmi explains that min haTorah NOONE has an obgligation to blow or hear the shofar, it just has to be done in the temple.

See perek 4 halacha aleph (as explained by the Meiri and the Ra'avad, not the mefarshim on the daf, who make rather a kvetch to interpet it otherwise; see what the Rid says).

I would recommend buying (or downloading) this http://www.talmudyerushalmi.org/daf-yomi/talmud-yerushalmi-mevoar/
He points out that there is a baraita brought in the Bavli (30a)that, in plain terms, states this also, but is interpreted there otherwise.

I was very pleased to find this out, since I have been troubled by the conventional/Bavli explanation for not blowing on Shabbat ever since I was a child.

Esser Agaroth said...

This post has been included in this week's Haveil Havalim Jewish/Israel Round-Up.

Moshe Laymore said...

I have seen a picture of a midwife in a chareidi mishnayos. I think it was drawn by Yoni from the Yated. It was a modestly dressed woman sitting in a speeding wagon. She was wearing a tichel.


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