Monday, October 10, 2005

Why you are *NOT* in fact allowed to hold a baby during davening

Over Rosh HaShana, I did a lot of reading - through the Rif on Rosh HaShana (12 blatt), Yoma (6 blatt), and Succah (27 blatt). Since I had neglected to do the whole learning 30 days before the Yom Tov thing, this seemed like a good way to catch up, and to take a break from Eruvin (plug for Rif blog - we just started Eruvin in daf Yomi). And I saw something (in Rif Succah 20a, excerpting Succah 41b) that I should have seen before, and which I should have considered when I made my original post: Why you *are* in fact allowed to hold a baby during davening. That was based on my analysis of a gemara in Berachot 23b (cited by the Rif on Berachot 14b), that a statement of Shmuel that the law is the same in terms of a knife, a loaf of bread, a plate, and money refers not to holding these items during davening Shemoneh Esrei but rather to holding them while urinating. Check out the aforementioned post for analysis and what I feel is a compelling argument that this is so.

However, I also claimed that, based on the way I understood them, the Rif and the Rosh read the gemara the same way. This is not the case. They would have read the relevant gemara as I did, because of this gemara in Succah. I missed this through a combination of ignorance, laziness, and pride - Rabbenu Yona on the Rif in Brachot referred to the gemara in Succah, but I did not realize that the gemara in Succah in fact explicitly cited the brayta and statement of Shmuel from Brachot, and did not look it up.

To recap, the gemara in Brachot 23b read:
The Sages learnt {in a brayta}: one should not grab tefillin in his hand or {and?} a sefer Torah in his arm and pray, nor should he urinate with them, nor sleep with them, whether a permanent or a temporary sleep.

Shmuel said: a knife, a plate, a loaf {of bread}, and money are like them {as in the preceding brayta - our gemara has a different order for these items}.
This was embedded in a discussion of the laws of the privy. Shmuel's additions to the law laid down in the brayta only applies to one of the three cases (for why should one not sleep while holding money?), and Rashi identifies this case as prayer. I did not realize this at the time, but he is essentially forced into adopting this position because of the gemara in Succah. The reason Shmuel gave these examples is somewhat arbitrary - one if afraid of dropping all of these, and thus there is tirda - but the examples are random, and he could have selected many other examples at random.

I argued that since the context of the gemara was the laws of the privy, it is clear that this is why the brayta was brought down. True, the brayta also gives the case of praying and sleeping temporary or more sustained sleep, but that was just how the brayta was formulated. It was brought down here in Brachot for the case of the privy. If so, it stands to reason that Shmuel's statement continues discussing the essential rule that was brought down in the brayta. And, once you realize that Shmuel's statement is about urinating while holding the items, his choice of items makes sense, such that it is deliberate and not random. That is, do not hold a knife while urinating lest you accidentally cut yourself. Do not hold a loaf of bread while urinating because it is disrespectful to the food, plus you might render it inedible. Do not hold a plate - if by praying, one might say that it is laden with food, which you are afraid will spill. Do not hold a plate while urinating, because it is disgusting - people will eat off that plate! Do not hold money while urinating - this is something that is given over from one person's hand to another.

However, now we have the gemara in Succah 41נ. It reads:

א"ל מר בר אמימר לרב אשי אבא צלויי קא מצלי ביה
מיתיבי לא יאחז אדם תפילין בידו וספר תורה בחיקו ויתפלל ולא ישתין בהן מים
ולא יישן בהן לא שינת קבע ולא שינת עראי
ואמר שמואל סכין וקערה ככר ומעות הרי אלו כיוצא בהן
התם לאו מצוה נינהו וטריד בהו הכא מצוה נינהו ולא טריד בהו
תניא רבי אלעזר בר צדוק אומר
כך היה מנהגן של אנשי ירושלים אדם יוצא מביתו ולולבו בידו הולך לבית הכנסת לולבו בידו קורא קריאת שמע ומתפלל ולולבו בידו קורא בתורה ונושא את כפיו מניחו על גבי קרקע הולך לבקר חולים ולנחם אבלים לולבו בידו נכנס לבית המדרש משגר לולבו ביד בנו וביד עבדו וביד שלוחו
מאי קמ"ל
להודיעך כמה היו זריזין במצות
Mar the son of Amemar said to Rav Ashi: Father used to pray with it {=the lulav}.
A contradiction!
{The brayta stated:} A man should not grab his tefillin in his hand and his Torah scroll in his embrace and pray, nor should he urinate with them, nor should he sleep with them, not a temporary nor a sustained sleep.
And Shmuel said: A knife, a plate, a loaf, and money are like them.
{The answer:} There, they are not a mitzvah and he is bothered with them. Here, it {=lulav} is a mitzvah and he is not bothered with them.

They learnt {in a brayta}: Rabbi Eleazar bar Tzadok says:
This was the custom of the men of Jerusalem: A man would leave his house with his lulav in hand. He went to the synagogue with his lulav in hand. He would read Shema and pray {Shemoneh Esrei} with his lulav in hand. He would read from the Torah and lift up his hands {to bless}, he would place it on the floor. He would go to visit the sick, to console mourners with his lulav in hand. He would enter the study hall and would give over his lulav to his son's hand, his servant's hand, or his agent's hand.
What is this {brayta} coming to tell us?
To inform us how zealous they were in performance of mitzvot.
In the context of this gemara, Shmuel's statement must perforce be about prayer and not about urination. Further, from the answer of this gemara, we see that the problem Shmuel had with these items is that a man would be tarud with them. This directly produces Rashi's explanation of the gemara in Brachot, and it would seem it could be no other way. Thus, I was mistaken in my attribution of my reading of the gemara in Brachot to Rif and Rosh.

Thus, any allowance for holding a baby during Shemoneh Esrei would have to come from a claim that a baby is not comparable to Shmuel's examples, and that he would not be tarud. Perhaps one could say chai nosei et atzmo, or else that because of chiba for the child, just like the chiba for the mitzvah of lulav, he would not be tarud. Or some such answer.

I am unrepentant in one regard, however. I still maintain that my analysis of the gemara in Brachot is correct, and superior to an analysis that makes Shmuel statement one about prayer. This, for all the reasons I outlined above.

What then of the gemara in Succah? Well, we are faced with two parallel gemaras, and when this happens, we should determine which was the original and which was the copy. In this instance, it seems fairly obvious that Berachot contains the original. The brayta and Shmuel's statement are brought in straightforwardly in series of statements about the privy. This is where we would expect the brayta to be brought. Shmuel's statement is said benichuta - calmly, on the brayta.

Meanwhile, the gemara in Succah is about the laws of lulav, and we have two statements about holding lulav all day. One is Mar bar Amemer relating his father's practice, and the other is the brayta relating the practice of the men of Jerusalem. This practice was troubling in light of another source, from a different field entirely, so the gemara says meitvei - I have an objection! Then, another sugya is copied in its entirety and brought for the contrast - here is a source stating one cannot hold things during prayer! They thus cite the sugya in its entirety - both brayta and Shmuel's statement, as part of the objection. This sub-sugya, of brayta grouped with Shmuel, in coming from somewhere. In truth it does - it comes from Berachot.

Tosafot, too, seems to acknowledge Berachot as the original. On Succah 41b, d"h ve`amar Shemuel, he asks why Shmuel's statement was brought along for the ride. He answers that if they only brought the brayta, I would think this was the law by tefilla only in terms of the tefillin and sefer Torah, since if they fell, there would be bizayon and he would therefore be tarud with them. Therefore, Shmuel's statement is also brought, since he discusses secular items.

Now, if this were the original source in which the brayta was brought, Shmuel's statement would be necessary as commentary of the brayta, since otherwise we would not have his statement. (It would later be copied together with the brayta to Berachot.) Tosafot assumes that these statements are being brought from elsewhere to pose the contradiction. (Of course, this is not so, since Tosafot would not subscribe to the view that if two parallel sources exist, one is the original, and the other a copy. Rather, both were in the ether, and Ravina and Rav Ashi cited what they felt necessary in each instance, such that there is sometimes duplication.)

Digression: Here we see the first potential "out." Often, when the gemara cites a statement from elsewhere, they cite the entire sugya, even when the statement required is in the middle of the sugya. Not realizing this fact causes misunderstandings in later generations of what the question was and what the answer was, and such is reflected in the stama or in commentators. I could offer examples here from Horayot, Gittin, and elsewhere, but they are quite involved, and besides the point. One could then quite simply say that Tosafot was right and did not know it. The brayta was cited, and Shmuel's statement was cited agav the brayta, when they did the transfer from one sugya to the other. Indeed, only a sefer Torah and tefillin may not be held, because the possible bizayon to kitvei kodesh will cause him to be tarud. However, this does not mesh with the answer offered by the gemara. True, there is a mitzvah to hold a lulav, one which does not exist by tefillin and sefer Torah, but then, there is no issue of bizayon to kitvei kodesh if the lulav drops, so the question does not start. (Unless one speaks of bizayon to mitzvot, or else wants to argue against the gemara...) Besides, I don't believe this is the answer for a moment. End Digression.

However, once we assume the gemara in Berachot is the source sugya, then I would grant primacy to the best interpretation as found locally in that sugya, and that would be that Shmuel is speaking of urination. What then to make of the gemara in Succah, in which Shmuel must speak of prayer? I would say that Shmuel was taken out of context, and that this movement was a result of reinterpretation, and that the movement also causes Shmuel to be reinterpreted.

Who does this reinterpretation of Shmuel, and who does this movement of brayta and Shmuel from one sugya to another? It is the stama digemara, which speaks in Aramaic and typically tries to harmonize differing sugyot.

For this is introduced by מיתיבי, not by a statement by an Amora. And it does not seem to be Rav Ashi, the sof horaah and redactor of Bavli, for he was told this by Mar bar Amemar, and could have replied directly. The analysis in the gemara takes a sugya involving the Amora Rav Ashi, and a sugya involving the Amora Shmuel, which were already complete by themselves, and transfers the existing sugya of Shmuel to contrast and offer a harmonization. This seems stamaitic.

(Further, Amemer has a brayta to back him up, whereas Shmuel only has his own statement and interpretation of a brayta. Ask on Shmuel rather than Amemer, who is only equal the subsequent brayta! And look at the question, what the brayta is coming to teach us. It is coming to teach us their zealousness in mitzvot? It seems rather to teach us that one may hold the lulav during all of these activities, including Shema and Shemoneh Esrei, but not during duchening, an aliya, and learning. Or at least that one may hold the lulav during davening!)

I would posit that Shmuel's statement is not to be taken as the stama in Succah took it, as referring to prayer, but rather to urination. Therefore there is no problem with Amemar's actions, or with the actions of the men of Jerusalem. And thus it is not an issue of tirda by tefillin and sefer Torah, but rather the disrespect to these items by urinating with them, sleeping with them, or praying with them, which would entail not paying proper attention to them.

I will post this as well as an update and correction to my previous post.

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