Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Daf Yomi: Pesachim 2b-3a: Mar Zutra's Proof

On daf 2b-3a, Mar Zutra offers a proof that אור means אורתא as opposed to יממא:

המפלת אור לשמונים ואחד בית שמאי פוטרין מקרבן ובית הלל מחייבים אמרו <להן> [להם] בית הלל לבית שמאי מאי שנא אור שמנים ואחד מיום שמנים ואחד אם שיוה לו לטומאה לא ישוה לו לקרבן מדקאמר ב"ה לב"ש מאי שנא אור שמונים ואחד מיום שמונים ואחד שמע מינה אור אורתא הוא שמע מינה

This is difficult for a number of reasons.

Firstly, this proof is surrounded on both sides by other מיתיבי's. Each of these others is an anonymous setama degemara. The sole exception is this proof by Mar Zutra. Thus, Mar Zutra appearing in the middle of a large segment of setama is a bit off. We find this upon occasion by Rav Papa, who is an interesting case in his own right.

Because this was unusual, I thought that perhaps this reference to Mar Zutra could be the result of a scribal error. If
מיתיבי appeared at the end of a line, and there was not enough space to finish the word, the sofer would have repeated it on the subsequent line. If that repetition were mangled, it could produce something that could be mistaken for מר זוטרא. That is, we have the mem, and the tav could be mistaken for a resh and a separate zayin, and from there, it could produce מיתיבי מר זוטרא. However, I checked the manuscripts available online and they all had מיתיבי מר זוטרא or something close, and so we would only plead for this as a very last resort. Instead, we shall make every effort to incorporate the fact of Mar Zutra's authorship of the statement into any explanation of the sugya.

Secondly, why even bother to give this proof, if we have already provided sufficient evidence that אור means night? After the end of the proofs based on pesukim, the first proof based upon Tannaitic sources is:

מיתיבי: ר' יהודה אומר בודקין אור <לארבעה> [ארבעה] עשר ובארבעה עשר שחרית ובשעת הביעור מדקאמר רבי יהודה בודקין אור ארבעה עשר ובארבעה עשר שחרית אלמא אור אורתא הוא ש"מ

This is a citation of the third Mishna, in which both Rabbi Yehuda and his disputants, the Sages, use אור to mean night, for they both say that if he did not search on אור of the 14th, he should search in the morning of the 14th. And the gemara concludes שמע מינה, that we may indeed conclude from here that אור means night. If so, why does the gemara proceed to offer further proof? And why does Mar Zutra offer his proof, if this first proof is sufficient?

Rabbenu Chananel is bothered by this very question, and explains that although this first proof is sufficient, the gemara will demonstrate that one can prove that אור means night from other sources.

I believe that the question is stronger than the answer. After all, the proof from the third Mishna is more than sufficient. It, unlike the rest, shows the definition of אור specifically in the context of אור of the 14th when one should search for chametz. The only better proof is the final one, in which the academy of Shmuel (or of Rabbi Yishmael, depending on one's girsa) have a different version of the first Mishna, which is the very Mishna under discussion, which has לילי rather than אור. But all the rest are extraneous -- even if they show אור means night, we already have sufficient evidence in the present context.

Perhaps one can say that the gemara wishes to demonstrate comprehensively that אור always means night. Or perhaps the gemara's style is to offer a wide array of proofs, even where strictly unnecessary, perhaps even to highlight the meaning of אור in those other contexts.

Even so, Mar Zutra's proof seems unnecessary in the present context, and so I would consider it a difficulty with which we must deal.

Thirdly, once again approaching the sugya from the perspective of academic scholarship, we generally assume that the stama degemara was written much later than the statements by named Amoraim. If so, Mar Zutra I preceded the composition of the anonymous setatma degemara. Why then would Mar Zutra offer such a comparatively weak proof that אור means night? Mar Zutra could have offered the proof from the third Mishna of the present masechet, Pesachim, in the exact same context of searching for chametz during the אור of the 14th. Why bring proof from a Mishna in Keritut 9b, from the wording of Bet Hillel's argument?

Perhaps we could say that this is proof that the setama actually preceded Mar Zutra's statement. But in general, it has been demonstrated that setama follows named Amoraim chronologically.

Thus, it is difficult that Mar Zutra did not see fit to bring proof from the closer and in context third Mishna of Pesachim. Perhaps the third Mishna in Pesachim has some problem that renders it insufficient proof? We will consider this later.

Fourthly, Mar Zutra should not need to prove that אור means night as opposed to day, yet this is exactly what he does with this

In this previous post, I noted that Hebrew אור is the cognate of Aramaic אורתא, such that it should be obvious that אור means night. Furthermore, the thrid Mishna makes it clear that אור means night as opposed to day. If Rav Huna and Rav Yehuda are telling us that אור means night, is this not obvious? Otherwise, it is like helpfully explaining that barzel is parzela, or asking how Bava Kamma can state that there are ארבעה אבות, when we only know of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, while the full phrase is ארבעה אבות נזיקין. What chiddush are Rav Huna and Rav Yehuda coming to teach us? In answer, I note Abaye's statement that a Torah scholar should not start learning in the late afternoon (אורתא) of the 13th which goes into the night (נגהי) of the 14th. Thus, אורתא means something different than נגהי. Since the Mishna begins אור לארבעה עשר, the night to the 14th, one might think this is the late afternoon of the 13th going into the 14th. Rav Yehuda and Rav Huna are teaching us the chiuddush that אור is not equal to אורתא. This is true of many cognates from different languages, in which they take on specific connotations in their respective languages. Thus, maison in French is a house, while mansion in English is a lange and fancy house. Thus, I demonstrate that the Amoraim had a specific meaning of אורתא - late afternoon - not shared by the setama degemara, and Rav Yehuda and Rav Huna are teaching us that this is not the implication of אור.

At odds with this theory is Mar Zutra's statement. He tries to prove that אור means night rather than day, rather that trying to prove that אור means night as opposed to late afternoon. But Mar Zutra, as an Amora, should be aware of this Aramaic implication of אורתא, and should then understand the import of Rav Yehuda and Rav Huna's statements. He should know how naghei differs from אורתא, since he is an Amora just like Abaye. Yet this entire line of proofs is there to show that אור must mean night rather than day, and operates under the initial assumption that naghei means day. Of course, once we conclude that אור must means night, the gemara reinterprets naghei to mean night, matching Abaye's usage of the term to mean night. However, as I said above, this should not even be a question to Mar Zutra. He should know אורתא is distinct from נגהי and thus understand the import of Rav Huna's statement, and barring that, he should at least recognize אור as the cognate of אורתא, such that it certainly would not mean day.

I believe that if we take these difficulties together, a solution becomes readily apparent. Indeed, Rav Huna and Rav Yehuda wish to teach us that אור is not the same as its Aramaic cognate אורתא and that rather than meaning late afternoon, אור means night. This is also what the academy of Shmuel attempts to teach with its variant of the Mishna, לילי לארבעה עשר. This resolves the fourth difficulty.

Mar Zutra knows this and desires to prove that אור means night rather than late afternoon. This is why Mar Zutra cannot simply cite the third Mishna. The third Mishna merely proves that אור means night as distinct from, and earlier than, morning (shacharit), but does not specify when exactly this night period is. One can read the third Mishna, without great difficulty, as stating that if he did not search in the late afternoon going into the 14, then he should should on the 14th in the morning.

The second difficulty was why Mar Zutra felt compelled to provide this prove from a Mishna in Keritut when a local Mishna which was even more to the topic had already addressed it. The resolution of this difficulty is that the third Mishna is not sufficient for what Mar Zutra wants to prove.

This also resolves the third difficulty, which is that if Mar Zutra preceded the setama chronologically, why did he not chose better proof of the third Mishna. In answer, the third Mishna does not prove what Mar Zutra wishes to prove.

How does the Mishna in Keritut prove what Mar Zutra desires to prove. Let us examine it again.

מיתיבי מר זוטרא המפלת אור לשמונים ואחד בית שמאי פוטרין מקרבן ובית הלל מחייבים אמרו <להן> [להם] בית הלל לבית שמאי מאי שנא אור שמנים ואחד מיום שמנים ואחד אם שיוה לו לטומאה לא ישוה לו לקרבן מדקאמר ב"ה לב"ש מאי שנא אור שמונים ואחד מיום שמונים ואחד שמע מינה אור אורתא הוא שמע מינה

This Mishna records a dispute between Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai. (see summary here) If a woman gives birth to a baby girl, she has the status of niddah for the first 14 days. Then, until the 80th day, she does not have the status of niddah, even if she sees blood. On the 81st day, in the morning, she brings korbanot. Now, if she has another baby, or miscarries, within this time, she need not bring other korbanot, for anything born during this time, until the first korbanot are brought, is covered by the first korbanot.

At issue in the Mishna is what the law is when she miscarries on the night of the 81st day, where night precedes day in the Hebrew calendar, so that this is the night following the 80th day. On the one hand, she still has not yet brought the korbanot, since the korbanot may only be brought during the day. On the other hand, this may just be a circumstance particular to the bringing of korbanot, that they may not be brought at night. Indeed, we see that the time span in which she may see blood and yet not be declared a niddah expires at the termination of the 80th day.

Bet Shammai excuse her from an additional korban because she has yet to bring her korban. Bet Hillel object that this should not differ from ritual impurity which would result from seeing blood. Just as if she saw menstrual blood on the night of the 81st, she would be ritually impure, so too if she miscarried on the night of the 81st, she would need to bring an additional korban, for this time span has elapsed.

The way Mar Zutra's proof is typically taken, as as explained by the setama degemara, from the fact the Bet Hillel says that
מאי שנא אור שמונים ואחד מיום שמונים ואחד, we may derive that אור is distinct from יום, and thus must mean night as opposed to day.

Since I posit that Mar Zutra is attempting to prove that אור means night as opposed to late afternoon, I will now demonstrate that one may prove this from the Mishna, and specifically from Bet Hillel's usage. If אור meant late afternoon, then Bet Hillel could not claim that if she saw blood she would be ritually impure, for the late afternoon is still part of the 80th day. Rather, אור must mean the night, during which time if she saw blood she would be ritually impure.

As I noted earlier, Mar Zutra could not prove the same thing from the third Mishna in Pesachim, for while that Mishna distinguishes between אור of the 14th and שחרית of the 14th, it does not distinguish between night and the late afternoon which precedes it.

Thus, we may well understand why Mar Zutra chose to put forth this proof, rather than prove from the third Mishna, or let the proof from the third Mishna stand alone.

We may now resolve the first difficulty, that of finding Mar Zutra embedded in a long segment of proofs by the setama. Mar Zutra was actually the first proof in the gemara, and he intended to prove that אור in the Mishna meant night rather than late afternoon. This was because he understood the terminology of Amoraim, since he lived during that time. He understood that Rav Yehuda and Rav Huna were trying to state that אור in the Mishna was dissimilar to its cognate in Aramaic, אורתא. He understood that נגהי as used by Rav Huna meant night, just as it meant night in Abaye's statement.

However, the setama degemara, composed a bit later, did not have the same definition of terms, since the meaning had shifted. אורתא now simply meant night, and it was unclear whether נגהי meant night or perhaps meant day. Therefore, Mar Zutra's proof was understood by the setama degemara to be a proof that אור meant night and not day. In response to this, the setama added its own proofs. It added a series of proofs from pesukim, and it added a series of proofs from Tannaitic statements, which demonstrated that אור meant night. The best proof of this was from the third Mishna in Pesachim, and so this was added to lead off the proofs from Tannaitic statements.

Stay tuned for another post reconstructing and explaining the original sugya, on the basis of what we have developed in these posts.

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