Friday, April 28, 2006

Rif Yomi Weekly Edition and Index By Daf

I have updated the index by daf section of the Alfasi (Rif Yomi) blog to include most of Pesachim. The index by daf is useful for navigation and for finding the Rif on a specific daf of gemara. Click here to view it.

Also, Rif Yomi Weekly edition, which covers from the beginning of the 10th perek until next Shabbatm is available here.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Some Template Changes

Frankly, parshablog as it currently stands is nearly unnavigable. I'm trying to prettify it somewhat and make the various sidebar links more wieldy. Thus, that strange CSS-based menubar on the side about animals ... it will be replaced fairly soon with appropriate parshablog links.

The Rif on Sefirat haOmer

Soon to be posted on the Rif blog. At the end of hilchot Pesach, he cites the relevant gemara in Menachot about sefirat haOmer. In Pesachim, page 27b in the Rif to 28a:

{Menachot 65b}
And we are obligated to count the days of the seven weeks, from the evening of the 15th of Nissan which is the night of {=beginning} the 16th, for it is written {Vayikra 23:15}:
טו וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם, מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת, מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם, אֶת-עֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה: שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת, תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָה. 15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the day of rest, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the waving; seven weeks shall there be complete;
And the Sages learnt {in a brayta}: {Vayikra 23:15}:
טו וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם, מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת, מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם, אֶת-עֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה: שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת, תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָה. 15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the day of rest, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the waving; seven weeks shall there be complete;
Each and every person counts for himself.
מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת - "from the morrow after the day of rest" - from the morrow of Yom Tov {of Pesach}

{Menachot 66a}
And a brayta also says so: {from same pasuk:}

טו וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם, מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת, מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם, אֶת-עֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה: שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת, תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָה. 15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the day of rest, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the waving; seven weeks shall there be complete;
טז עַד מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת הַשְּׁבִיעִת, תִּסְפְּרוּ
חֲמִשִּׁים יוֹם; וְהִקְרַבְתֶּם מִנְחָה חֲדָשָׁה, לַיהוָה.
16 even unto the morrow after the seventh week shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall present a new meal-offering unto the LORD.
Perhaps this means that he should reap and bring {as an offering}, and then begin counting whenever he likes? Therefore it teaches {Devarim 16:7}:
ט שִׁבְעָה שָׁבֻעֹת, תִּסְפָּר-לָךְ: מֵהָחֵל חֶרְמֵשׁ, בַּקָּמָה, תָּחֵל לִסְפֹּר, שִׁבְעָה שָׁבֻעוֹת. 9 Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee; from the time the sickle is first put to the standing corn shalt thou begin to number seven weeks.

{Menachot 66a continues}
Perhaps he should reap, count, and then bring {as an offering}? Therefore it teaches {Vayikra 23:15-16}:
טו וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם, מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת, מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם, אֶת-עֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה: שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת, תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָה. 15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the day of rest, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the waving; seven weeks shall there be complete;
טז עַד מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת הַשְּׁבִיעִת, תִּסְפְּרוּ חֲמִשִּׁים יוֹם;
וְהִקְרַבְתֶּם מִנְחָה חֲדָשָׁה, לַיהוָה.
16 even unto the morrow after the seventh week shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall present a new meal-offering unto the LORD.
Perhaps he should reap by day and bring by day and count by day? Therefore it teaches us {Vayikra 23:15}:
טו וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם, מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת, מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם, אֶת-עֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה: שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת, תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָה. 15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the day of rest, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the waving; seven weeks shall there be complete;
When are they complete? When he begins in the evening. How so? Reaping and counting at night, and bringing {as an offering} by day.

And just as it is a commandment to count days, so is it a commandment to count weeks {as both days and weeks are mentioned in the pesukim}. For Abaye said: It is a commandment to count days and a commandment to count weeks.

And it is forbidden for us to eat chadash {the new crop} until the evening of the 17th of Nissan which is the night of the 18th, for it is written {Vayikra 23:14}:
יד וְלֶחֶם וְקָלִי וְכַרְמֶל לֹא תֹאכְלוּ, עַד-עֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה--עַד הֲבִיאֲכֶם, אֶת-קָרְבַּן אֱלֹהֵיכֶם: חֻקַּת עוֹלָם לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם, בְּכֹל מֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם. {ס} 14 And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor fresh ears, until this selfsame day, until ye have brought the offering of your God; it is a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. {S}
And they learn {in a Mishna in the third perek of Orlah}: The chadash {new crop} is forbidden Biblically.

And we say in the gemara {Menachot 68b}: Ravina said: They said to me: If your father ate {chadash} on the evening of 17th which was the night of the 18th, he holds like Rabbi Yehuda, who said: Is it not forbidden Biblically, for it is written {Vayikra 23:14}:
יד וְלֶחֶם וְקָלִי וְכַרְמֶל לֹא תֹאכְלוּ, עַד-עֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה--עַד הֲבִיאֲכֶם, אֶת-קָרְבַּן אֱלֹהֵיכֶם: חֻקַּת עוֹלָם לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם, בְּכֹל מֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם. {ס} 14 And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor fresh ears, until this selfsame day, until ye have brought the offering of your God; it is a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. {S}
until {ad} the actual {itzumo} day, and he holds that until {ad} is inclusive {ad veAd bekhlal -- thus that day would also be forbidden}, and we are concerned for safek {doubt - in this case sefeika deyoma}. Therefore, the 17th which is in doubt of being the 16th, one should not eat until night.
And so is the halacha.

This I would consider a nes nistar:

From the AP:
A driver who suffered a heart attack and crashed into a guardrail was saved by a defibrillator salesman and two nurses who happened to be passing by.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Rif Blogging Resumes -- 10th Perek of Pesachim

The Alfasi blog (Rif Yomi) had been on hiatus for a while, since the Rif skipped from the 4th perek of Pesachim to the 10th, since the intervening perakim were not really halachah lema'aseh. Since Daf Yomi will be reaching the 10th perek tomorrow, blogging resumes.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Daf Yomi - Pesachim 115b - Abaye's Question About Removing The Tray

Some thoughts I had about the following story (slightly different in Rif than in the gemara). I present what I think is an unconventional take.

The Rif, translated (you can see the Rif in tzurat hadaf here):
And why do we uproot the table?
Rabbi Yannai {alternate girsa: the school of Rabbi Yannai} said: So that the children should see and ask.

Abaye was sitting before Rabba. He saw that he saw that they removed the tray {our gemara: from before him}. He said: Have we already eaten that you are removing the tray?!
Rabba said: You have exempted us from saying "Mah Nishtana." {Why is this night different}
The gemara as we have it in our printed text (though again I emphasize, the Rif is different in many ways):

למה עוקרין את השולחן אמרי דבי ר' ינאי כדי שיכירו תינוקות וישאלו אביי הוה יתיב קמיה דרבה חזא דקא מדלי תכא מקמיה אמר להו עדיין לא קא אכלינן אתו קא מעקרי תכא מיקמן אמר ליה רבה פטרתן מלומר מה נשתנה

The way I was taught when I was in 6th grade (and the common view, as seems evident from this google search) is that this a young Abaye, who was an orphan and adopted by his uncle Rabba, who taught him. This story is an illustration of the reason for uprooting the table given by the academy of Rabbi Yannai, for Abaye is a young child, and the strangeness of the action prompted him to ask, which was the very point of the exercise!

I would put forth a different interpretation. We do not know how old Abaye is. For all we know, he could be older. And even if young and growing up in his uncle's house, he still was on the ball! Was this his first seder that he did not recall from last year?

I would add to things before explaining what I think is going on. Firstly, while our version of the gemara has תכא as what they uprooted, Rif has פתורא as what they uprooted. Secondly, there is a broader context, in the gemara immediately leading up to the current gemara (with Rav Huna replaced in Rif with Rav Kahana):

אמר רב שימי בר אשי מצה לפני כל אחד ואחד מרור לפני כל אחד ואחד וחרוסת לפני כל אחד ואחד ואין עוקרין את השלחן אלא לפני מי שאומר הגדה רב הונא אומר כולהו נמי לפני מי שאומר הגדה והלכתא כרב הונא

Rav Shimi bar Ashi said: Matza before each and every one, and maror before each and every one, but they do not uproot the table except before he who says the haggada.
And Rav Kahana {our gemara: Huna} said: All of these {=matza and maror} only before he who says the haggada.

And the halacha is like Rav Kahana.
Note that Rav Kahana (or Rav Huna, if that is the girsa you chose) was the generation before Rabba, and thus two generations before Abaye. And Rav Kahana does not dispute Rav Shimi bar Ashi in terms of from before whom they uproot the table - only as regards to whether each and every person gets his own matza and maror before him.

The halacha is in accordance with Rav Kahana (or Rav Huna, who is the teacher of Rabba) and so matza and maror should only be before the leader of the haggada. And furthermore, they should only uproot the table from before the leader of the Seder, most likely Rabba. They should not remove the table from before Abaye!

This may indeed have been Abaye's objection. According to the girsa in our gemara:

אביי הוה יתיב קמיה דרבה חזא דקא מדלי תכא מקמיה אמר להו עדיין לא קא אכלינן אתו קא מעקרי תכא מיקמן

it is unclear from whom they removed the table in the narrative (that is, does מקמיה refer to Rabba or to Abaye), but from Abaye's objection of קא מעקרי תכא מיקמן, it seems that they are removing everyone's table/tray.

Abaye knew this was not the halacha, and so asks, "why are you removing the tray from before us? -- after all, we have not yet eaten!"

Another point, which can stand together or apart from the point above. Namely, in the Rif's girsa, the word is not תכא but rather פתורא.

I would suggest that Rabba's response is partly true halacha and partly expression of his bemusement. Abaye has asked a good question in that they were removing the table incorrectly, and thus he asked a question. In line with Rabbi Yannai (or the academy of Rabbi Yannai's) statement that the purpose was to prompt the asking of questions, Rabba stated that Abaye's halachic objection/question qualified as such.

Furthermore, Rabba's statement is part pun. We replace פתורה for תכא, but Rabbah's statement is still פטרתן מלומר מה נשתנה. Thus there is the pun פתרתן = our tables, and פטרתן with a tes which means "you have exempted us." (If so, this lends credence to the idea that Rabba is speaking partly in jest.)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Measures of Reviit in Bavli vs. Yerushalmi

The measure of reviit is different in Bavli and Yerushalmi.
Bavli states it is 2 X 2 X (2 + 1/2 + 2/3) fingerbreadths.
Yerushalmi states it is 2 X 2 X (1 + 1/2 + 1/3) fingerbreadths.

While Bavli is straightforward to figure out, Yerushalmi is not so obvious. What follows is my suggestion, which is simply that the ambiguity lies in the 2 possible measures of cubit.

To cite Rif:

Rav Chisda said: The Biblical reviit is 2 X 2 X 2 7/10 fingerbreadths.
And measured with the thumb, as they learnt {in a brayta}: {Vayikra 15:16}:
טז וְאִישׁ, כִּי-תֵצֵא מִמֶּנּוּ שִׁכְבַת-זָרַע--וְרָחַץ בַּמַּיִם אֶת-כָּל-בְּשָׂרוֹ, וְטָמֵא עַד-הָעָרֶב. 16 And if the flow of seed go out from a man, then he shall bathe all his flesh in water, and be unclean until the even.
In water = the water of a mikveh
All of his flesh in water = water into which all of his body may enter.
And how much is that? 1 cubit X 1 cubit X 3 cubits high. {That is, three cubic cubits.} And the Sages gave the measure of the waters of a mikveh to be 40 seah.

To explain: The Biblical reviit is 1 1/2 eggs volumes. And the log is 4 reviit which are 6 eggs. {Since 4 X 1.5 = 6.}
And how do we know that a log is 4 reviit? For they learnt {in the Mishna in Menachot 87b that there are 7 liquid measures in the Temple}: The hin, 1/2 hin, 1/3 hin, 1/4 hin, the log, 1/2 log, 1/3 log, 1/4 log. {The Mishna which lists 7 skips 1/3 log, which for some reason is listed here.}

Thus the log is composed of 4 reviit.
The hin is 12 log, for it is written זה, and זה is in gematria 12 log.
Thus, a hin is 48 reviit {because 12 X 4 = 48}, which are 72 eggs {because 48 X 1.5 = 72}.
A kav is 4 log which is 16 reviit {because 4 log per kav X 4 reviit per log = 16} which are 24 eggs {because 16 X 1.5 = 24}.

And how do we know that the kav is 4 log? For they learnt {in a Mishna}:
Hillel says: A hin full of drawn water invalidates the mikveh - for one is obligated to relate {the teaching} in his teacher's language - and how much is a hin - 12 log.
Shammai says: 9 kav which are 36 log.
Thus, the kav is 4 log {since 9 X 4 = 36}.

The seah is 6 kav which are 2 hin {since 6 kav = 24 log, and there are 12 log to a hin} which are 24 log {since there are 12 log to a hin} which are 96 reviit {since 24 X 4 = 96} which are 144 eggs {since 96 X 1.5 = 144}.

The eifah is 3 seah, which are 18 kav {since there are 6 kav to a seah} which are 6 hin, which are 72 log, which are 288 reviit, which are 432 eggs.

The measure of challah is an omer, which is 1/10th of an eifah, which is 43 eggs. And so too for matzah.

The Biblical reviit is 2 X 2 {X 2 7/10} fingerbreadths.
{How so?}
The Sages measured the water of a mikveh as 40 seah. The seah is 6 kav. The kav is 4 log. The log is 4 reviit.
{Meanwhile,} A cubit is 6 handbreadths. A handbreadths is 4 fingerbreadths, measured with the thumb.

Now, 1 cubit X 1 cubit X 3 cubits high {which is the dimensions of a mikveh} contains 40 seah.

We can do a simple calculation here, easier than that of the Rif. Thus, at this point I divert from translating the Rif. Since to convert cubits to fingerbreadths, we multiply by 24 (that is, X 6 X 4), we may calculate that:
1 cubic cubit = 24 X 24 X 24 fingers = 13824 cubic fingers.
3 cubic cubits = 3 X 13824 = 41,472 cubic fingers.

This is for 40 seah. Divide by 40, then by 6, then by 4, then by 4 again to get 1 reviit.
Thus, the ratio of 40 seah to 1 reviit is 3840:1.
Thus, 41,472 / 3840 will give us the cubic fingers for 1 reviit.
41,472 / 3840 = 10.8 cubic fingers.

Is this 2 X 2 X 2 7/10 fingers?
2 X 2 X 2.7 = 10.8 exactly.

However, Rif does not have modern geometry, and so he must resort to a more complicated calculation to acheive the same result. Feel free to skip over that, since it is after all just math.

Now, the Yerushalmi gives a different volume measure for a reviit, namely 2 X 2 X 1 + 1/2 + 1/3.
How can we arrive at that amount. I would posit the following - the only obvious room for ambiguity here is in the amah - the cubit. There were two cubit measures. One was composed of 6 handbreadths and the other of 5 handbreadths. The reviit of Bavli is computed using the 6 handbreadth cubit. Let us recalculate assuming a 5 handbreadth cubit, and see if we can arrive at the measure described in the Yerushalmi.

Since to convert cubits to fingerbreadths, we multiply by 20 (that is, X 5 X 4), we may calculate that:
1 cubic cubit = 20 X 20 X 20 fingers = 8000 cubic fingers.
3 cubic cubits = 3 X 8000 = 24,000 cubic fingers.
This is for 40 seah. Divide by 40, then by 6, then by 4, then by 4 again to get 1 reviit.
Thus, the ratio of 40 seah to 1 reviit is 3840:1.
Thus, 24,000 / 3840 will give us the cubic fingers for 1 reviit.
24,000 / 3840 = 6.25 cubic fingers.

How much is that?
That is 2 X 2 X 1.5625 fingerbreadths.
How much is 1.5625 fingerbreadths?
It is 1 + 1/2 + 1/16 fingerbreadths.

This is only slightly less than the Yerushalmi's measure of 1 + 1/2 + 1/3 fingerbreadths.

However, realize first of all that they were not using modern methods of calculation, and so to come to a figure with such precision would be quite difficult. Furthermore, the way these measures seem to work in both Bavli and in Yerushalmi is as the sum of a series of fractions.

Thus, in Bavli, the height is calculated as 2 + 1/2 + 1/5.
And thus, in Yerushalmi, the height is calculated as 1 + 1/2 + 1/3.

In theory, we might have imagined a series of continuously reducing fractions (with zero as the numerator until we reached 1/16), but such precision is unnecessary and overly complicated. Instead, the "good enough" way of describing numbers might be to continuously add smaller fractions until you have the minimum with possibly a bit over. We could not add 0/3 to 1/2 because we would have too little; adding 1/3 takes us over the top, and is thus sufficient.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

(Daf Yomi) Kohelet 2:14: "And the Fool Walks In Darkness" - One Who Accepts the Stringencies of Both Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai

Since I discussed the first part of the verse in immediately preceding post (about the Wise man who looks to its head -- that is, the head of Kiddush, which is Borei Peri haGafen), I thought it would be nice to give my chiddush about a derasha on the end of that verse. The pasuk, again, is Kohelet 2:14:
יד הֶחָכָם עֵינָיו בְּרֹאשׁוֹ, וְהַכְּסִיל בַּחֹשֶׁךְ הוֹלֵךְ; וְיָדַעְתִּי גַם-אָנִי, שֶׁמִּקְרֶה אֶחָד יִקְרֶה אֶת-כֻּלָּם. 14 The wise man, his eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness. And I also perceived that one event happeneth to them all.
There is an interesting statement in Rosh haShana 14b:

והתניא לעולם הלכה כדברי ב"ה והרוצה לעשות כדברי ב"ש עושה כדברי ב"ה עושה מקולי ב"ש ומקולי ב"ה רשע מחומרי ב"ש ומחומרי ב"ה עליו הכתוב אומר (קוהלת ב) והכסיל בחשך הולך

Thus, one who follows the stringencies of both Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai is the subject of the verse in Kohelet which states "but the fool walketh in darkness."

It is not enough for me to simply cite that pasuk without having a good explanation of why that pasuk applies to one who accepts these unnecessary double-stringencies. Why not apply the beginning of the verse, "the wise man, his eyes are in his head," and call him a wise man rather than a fool?

That is, how do we know that adopting these extra chumrot is considered walking in darkness, or that he should be called a fool?

Just as I explained for Rav Ashi's application of the verse in the previous post, I would put forth that this (like many other drashot) is based on word-play. Do not read the ש in והכסיל בחשך הולך as a shin but rather as the letter sin.

The word חשך, spelled with a sin, means "to spare, withhold, hold back." An example of this in Biblical Hebrew can be found in II Shmuel 18:16:
טו וַיָּסֹבּוּ עֲשָׂרָה נְעָרִים, נֹשְׂאֵי כְּלֵי יוֹאָב; וַיַּכּוּ אֶת-אַבְשָׁלוֹם, וַיְמִתֻהוּ. 15 And ten young men that bore Joab's armour compassed about and smote Absalom, and slew him.
טז וַיִּתְקַע יוֹאָב, בַּשֹּׁפָר, וַיָּשָׁב הָעָם, מִרְדֹף אַחֲרֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: כִּי-חָשַׂךְ יוֹאָב, אֶת-הָעָם. 16 And Joab blew the horn, and the people returned from pursuing after Israel; for Joab held back the people.
Thus, there is no leap of logic that one who adopts the strigencies of both Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai is a fool, or walking in darkness, and thus that the verse applies to him.

Rather, with the sin pronunciation, the meaning of the verse is:

"but the fool walks in stringencies," or "but the fool walks, holding himself back."

And thus we derive that (at least in this particular context) unnecessary stringency is not a positive thing but rather the mark of the fool.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Daf Yomi: Kiddush Rabba and הֶחָכָם עֵינָיו בְּרֹאשׁוֹ

I came up with an interesting insight into the meaning of a particular derasha. Perhaps others have said it before, but I want to write it down before I forget it. The specific incident, from Pesachim 106a:
Rav Ashi visited Mechoza. They told him: Master should make kiddush for us the Great Kiddush. He said {to himself}: What is the Great Kiddush? Let us see. Whenever there is a blessing, Borei Peri HaGafen is at the head. He said Borei Peri HaGafen, drawing it out. He saw an elderly man bend down and drink {and realized that that was the entirety of it}. He applied to himself the verse {Kohelet 2:14}:
יד הֶחָכָם עֵינָיו בְּרֹאשׁוֹ, וְהַכְּסִיל בַּחֹשֶׁךְ הוֹלֵךְ; וְיָדַעְתִּי גַם-אָנִי, שֶׁמִּקְרֶה אֶחָד יִקְרֶה אֶת-כֻּלָּם. 14 The wise man, his eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness. And I also perceived that one event happeneth to them all.
Rashi does not comment here explaining why Rav Ashi applied this particular verse to himself. The "Point By Point Summary" on Daf Yomi from shemayisrael explains:
he applied to himself "Ha'Chacham Einav b'Rosho" (a Chachamim plans in advance. 'Kedusha Rabah'
But this is not really planning ahead, now is it? He came unprepared, and started, then stalled a bit for time.

Rather, with an eye to how these derashot typically work, I would put forth the following explanation which is obvious in retrospect.

Rav Ashi does not intend the simple meaning of the verse that a wise man plans in advance, but rather I would say he interprets this as follows: The wise man looks towards its head. It in this case is kiddush, and at its head is Borei Peri HaGafen. Thus, he was the wise man who looks towards the head and intuited that he should start with Borei Peri HaGafen.


posts so far for Pesach

Year 1
Year 2

This Year:

Reclining as a Sign of Freedom

It is common to view heseiba - reclining - as the alternative to sitting, in large part because of the additional question (the one not mentioned in the Mishna or either Bavli or Yerushalmi) -- "that on all other nights we eat whether sitting or reclining, but on this night, only reclining."

There is an interesting alternate take, in Yerushalmi Pesachim 68b:

אמר רב לוי ולפי שדרך עבדים להיות אוכלין מעומד וכאן להיות אוכלין מסובין להודיע שיצאו מעבדות לחירות

Thus, the alternative to reclining is standing, since servants eat while standing. Indeed, the shamash often eats while standing (he is omed aleihem). Indeed, a later din on the same page is that
ר' סימון בשם ר' יהושע בן לוי אותו כזית שאדם יוצא בו בפסח צריך לאוכלו מיסב

In Bavli Pesachim, the same sugya, it is explicitly the shamash - in Bavli Pesachim 108b:

תא שמע דאמר ריב"ל השמש שאכל כזית מצה כשהוא מיסב יצא מיסב אין לא מיסב לא שמע מינה בעי הסיבה שמע מינה

Thus, besides seeing the requirement of heseiba - reclining - we also see that in general the shamash would in general eat standing.

As I said above, this is an interesting thing to think about when reclining, and realizing how exactly it symbolizes cherut - freedom.

Once they are reclining, thus showing that this is a permanent meal, there are specific ways of reclining, etc..

What Do You Call Chametz That You Sell To A Gentile?

Nacho Chametz!


Should Women Drink 4 Cups of Wine At the Seder?

First off, this and any other post on parshablog is lehalacha velo` lema'aseh, which means that you should not just read anything discussed here and simply follow it. Rather, ask your local Orthodox rabbi, who will tell you not to follow it. :)

We can start with the explicit statement by Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi in Bavli Pesachim 108a-b that women must indeed drink 4 cups of wine on the Seder night:
ואמר ר' יהושע בן לוי נשים חייבות בארבעה כוסות הללו שאף הן היו באותו הנס
Women were also part of the miracle, and so they are obligated in these 4 cups.

However, perhaps we might say that the 4 cups are a mechanism for fulfilling an obligation of celebration and happiness for freedom, and there are many paths to achieving this happiness. Let us see the brayta at Pesachim 108b - 109a:

ת"ר הכל חייבין בארבעה כוסות הללו אחד אנשים ואחד נשים ואחד תינוקות
א"ר יהודה וכי מה תועלת יש לתינוקות ביין אלא מחלקין להן קליות ואגוזין בערב פסח כדי שלא ישנו וישאלו
אמרו עליו על רבי עקיבא שהיה מחלק קליות ואגוזין לתינוקות בערב פסח כדי שלא ישנו וישאלו

There is thus a dispute between the Tanna Kamma and Rabbi Yehuda. The Tanna Kamma maintains that everyone is obligated in these 4 cups -- men, women and children. Rabbi Yehuda argues, asking what purpose do children have with wine?

This is strange. If they have an obligation to drink 4 cups, as the Tanna Kamma states, what is meant by "what purpose"? They have the purpose of fulfilling the obligation! Rather, the point seems to be that there are different mechanisms of fulfilling the same purpose. What purpose? Perhaps, of enjoyment (I will attempt to prove this later). (The part that states כדי is problematic, but it seems to give a different reason than the one earlier of "what purpose," and may be a carry-over from later in the sugya.)

An interesting point: Looking in the Rif, there are two important changes here. First, the reason given lacks שלא ישנו, and all that is given is so that they should ask. Secondly, it is Rabbi Tarfon, not Rabbi Akiva, who conducts himself accordingly.

A bit later in the gemara:
ת"ר חייב אדם לשמח בניו ובני ביתו ברגל שנא' (דברים טז) ושמחת בחגך
במה משמחם ביין
רבי יהודה אומר אנשים בראוי להם ונשים בראוי להן
אנשים בראוי להם ביין ונשים במאי תני רב יוסף בבבל בבגדי צבעונין בארץ ישראל בבגדי פשתן מגוהצין

Is this the purpose of the 4 cups of wine? The number 4 may be derived (or given support) from various other pesukim, but perhaps the wine in general on the Seder night is a fulfillment of enjoyment, as it states ושמחת בחגך.

We see here the same dispute between Rabbi Yehuda and the Tanna Kamma. The Tanna Kamma requires wine (for enjoyment) for women, while Rabbi Yehuda states that there is a more appropriate way for women to enjoy themselves. It would seem that Tanna Kamma and Rabbi Yehuda are consistent in their opinions. I would say further - not only are they consistent in their opinion in two disparate cases - these two cases are really one, and this is merely a reformulation for Yom Tov in general.

The Yerushalmi should shed some helpful light on this, in that it has a parallel brayta, which is a bit more comprehensive. It is once again in the gemara on the first Mishna stating that everyone -- even the poorest in Israel, must drink 4 cups. The Yerushalmi does not bring the first brayta about even women and children being obligated to drink, with Rabbi Yehuda objecting (at least in the case of children). Rather, the brayta reads as follows:

תני צריך הוא אדם לשמח את אשתו ואת בניו ברגל במה משמחן ביין.
רבי יודה אומר נשים בראוי להן וקטנים בראוי להם
נשים בראוי להן כגון מסנים וצוצלין
וקטנים בראוי להן כגון אגוזין ולוזין.
אמרין הוה רבי טרפון עביד כן.
And then the gemara begins bringing derivations for specifically four as the number of cups:
מניין לארבעה כוסות רבי יוחנן בשם ר' ר' בנייה כנגד ארבע גאולות

Thus, we have the brayta about men, women and children fulfilling their obligation of happiness, though with slightly different wording (e.g. tzarich vs. chayyav). And in Yerushalmi, Rabbi Yehuda leaves the men's fulfillment implicit, agreeing with Tanna Kamma, and brings a parallel mechanism for women to fulfill.

What is new here is that an alternative for children is given, and it is the same alternative Rabbi Yehuda gives for the 4 cups in the first brayta in Bavli - egozim and luzim are basically equal to egozim and kelayot. Furthermore, the continuation of אמרין הוה רבי טרפון עביד כן is parallel to the first brayta about the 4 cups, especially once we correct our Bavli to accord with that of the Rif, such that we emend Rabbi Akiva to be Rabbi Tarfon. Note also that the reasoning of kedei which I noted above seems to be a carryover from later is missing from the Yerushalmi. (Thus, a statement about Rabbi Tarfon as regards 4 cups in Bavli parallels a statement about Rabbi Tarfon about wine in general for joy of Yom Tov in Yerushalmi.)

Thus, the 4 cups would seem to be a fulfillment of enjoyment of the Yom Tov in order to celebrate the miracle, and the dispute between Tanna Kamma and Rabbi Yehuda is consistent, if not absolutely identical.

Indeed, we might read this into Rabbi Yehuda ben Beteira in Bavli:
תניא רבי יהודה בן בתירא אומר בזמן שבית המקדש קיים אין שמחה אלא בבשר שנאמר (דברים כז) וזבחת שלמים ואכלת שם ושמחת לפני ה' אלהיך ועכשיו שאין בית המקדש קיים אין שמחה אלא ביין שנאמר (תהילים קד) ויין ישמח לבב אנוש

Many women today do not enjoy 4 cups of wine, and perhaps this is not the proper way of fulfilling this mitzvah. Rather, there might be parallel ways to fulfill the commandment, and each select group of people should perform it in a specific way, as specified in the gemara.

Do we rule in accordance with Rabbi Yehuda or with the Tanna Kamma? It seems that we rule like Rabbi Yehuda. Indeed, the Tur states that for children, it is a good thing (=tov) to give them wine (because of chinuch) and it is a commandment (mitzvah) to put before them egozim and kelayot so that they will not sleep and will ask questions. Thus, he rules like Rabbi Yehuda in the first brayta in Bavli.

Of course, Tur does not rule like Rabbi Yehuda in regard to women as an alternate method of fulfilling the specific obligation of 4 cups, but then, he does not read the two braytas as discussing the same case, and would not hold that Rabbi Yehuda would hold this as regard to the four cups.

Furthermore, perhaps one can take the Bavli's omission of a statement by Rabbi Yehuda regarding women in the first brayta as a decision that this would not be the case. And furthermore, one can argue quite strongly that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi is brought to definitively state that women are obligated in the 4 cups, and not just in the general obligation that can be fulfilled in various ways, but in this specific way of drinking 4 cups of wine.

There are of course other ways of understanding these gemaras, and various theories that describe the system, but I think there is something to this understanding I have put forth, given the parallelisms between these various braytas.

Of course, do not act on this theoretical discussion.

(Update: Another possible approach, which perhaps glosses over some of the eerie similarities in language and cases: There are two laws at issue - the four cups of wine and simchat Yom Tov. According to the Tanna Kamma, all are obligated in the 4 cups, men, women and children. Rabbi Yehuda sees no benefit for children here, since the better chinuch would be to keep them up for the seder, or perhaps he is even talking about children who have not yet reached the age of chinuch. According to the Tanna Kamma, the requirement of enjoyment of the Yom Tov is fulfilled via wine for everyone, and so this is automatically taken care of because all are drinking wine for the four cups. Rabbi Yehuda in Bavli states that women do not get this joy of Yom Tov for wine, so must additionally receive shoes or clothes. In Yerushalmi, he says the same, adding that the same egozim etc. that children are to receive to keep them up and asking questions as participants in the seder also gives these children joy of Yom Tov, such that the head of the household fulfills his obligation automatically in this way, just as he does by giving the adult male members of his household wine.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Haggadah and Instructions for Bedikat Chametz

From, available here as a pdf.

Zeta -- and mazza pizza

The following is most likely false, since I do not really know enough about the field to know if this would be correct, or what I am proposing would be wrong, but I've been thinking about the following recently - the origin of the Greek letter zeta. Everyone equates it with zayin, but I would like to consider the possibility that it comes from tzadi.

Firstly, here is the wikipedia article on the subject of Zeta.

Why should we think it is == to the English letter "z"? Well, in modern Greek, it is pronounced "z" (= the "z" in the Internation Phonetic Alphabet). Furthermore, it has the value of 7 in Greek, being the 7th letter (the Greek letter digamma, = "w," preceding it). Thus, we have:
epsilon (=heh)
digamma (actual name unknown, since it fell into disuse, probably called waw) (=vav)
zeta (=zayin)
eta (=chet)
theta (=tet)
iota (=yud)
kappa (=kaf)
etcetera (and no, etcetera is not a Greek letter)

Thus, the Greek letters parallel the Hebrew letters. Epsilon is an exception. The argument can be made that eta and theta are simply chet and tet. But, zeta follows this pattern, and the latter is not called zayn.

Yet, the position of the letter, together with its current pronunciation, makes it quite likely that the letter = zayin. Wikipedia states that it derived from Phoenician zayin, but took its name froim the eta-theta pattern. And the Roman z and Cyrillic З derive from it.

Why would I put forth צ, tsadi as a possibility? Several reasons.

Firstly, the name of the letter. It does not match the Phoenician (and Hebrew) name zayin. It does, however, quite closely match tsadi, ṣādē.

Secondly, we see in German that the the letter zeta, written "z," stands for the tz sound. To get our English "z" sound, German uses "s." Indeed, in Yiddish, when written in Hebrew letters, the letter tzadi is used to equal the letter zeta (z, pronounced ts) in Roman characters. Furthermore, in German, the letter is no longer in the seventh position, but is at the end of the alphabet. (Though perhaps one of the earlier letters assumes some other quality of zeta...) In Italian, zeta equals either a ts or a dz sound.

According to Wikipedia, is was probably pronounced [z] in Greek even in the Hellenistic age. However, earlier than that, it was not pronounced [z]. Rather, there is a dispute.

Some say it was pronounced [zd] as in Mazda, and some say it was pronounced [dz]. See the arguments for each over there.

Now, [dz] is simply the voiced equivalent of [ts], since [d] is a voiced [t] and [z] is a voiced [s]. And, we see that both these options are available in Italian.

Finally, if we look at the Greek alphabet, we see that where Hebrew and Phoenician have tzadi, Greek has nothing.

Thus, what might have happened - since Greek did not have a [z] sound by itself, it still wanted to match as much as possible the Phoenician alphabet, at least at the beginning. Thus, they moved tzadi and called it zeta, since it matched the pattern of the other two letters which follow, and gave it its usual pronunciation, perhaps though with a voiced equivalent. Thus, at the end of the Greek alphabet, a tzadi equivalent is omitted.

Some Problems With Transliteration

My Hebrew transliteration program, now in beta, still has some problems. This is because some features have not been implemented in their entirety. I'll document some of the problems here. First, I would just note that I've added support for another transcription scheme, namely "Michigan Claremont." Since this scheme does not denote many of the features I discover, the mapping loses features. For example, that scheme does not distinguish between the shevas na and nach, or between different degeshim, or between kametz gadol or katan.

The program still has a way to go. A good illustration of this is how it handles the 12th perek of Vayikra. I will give here the academic transliteration generated by my program and highlight errors in red.

wayḏabbēr ʾăḏōnāy, ʾel-mōšeh llēʾmōr
dabbēr ʾel-bənê yiśrāʾēl, lēʾmōr, ʾiššāh kî ṯazrîaʿ, wəyāləḏāh zāḵor--wəṭāməʾāh šiḇʿaṯ yāmîm, kîmê niddaṯ dəw‍ōṯāh tiṭmāʾ

zāḵor was a hypercorrection, based on the dashes there. Basically, when a word ends with a syllable with kametz and has a makef connecting it to the next word, that kametz is a katon, and has been reduced from a cholam. Here, the -- was punctuation from mechon-mamre showing a specific type of division, and this confused my program into thinking that the kametz was reduced from a cholam. I need to distinguish between a single dash for dagesh and double dash for mechon-mamre's trup-based punctuation.

ûḇayyôm, haššəmînî, yimmôl, bəśar ʿārəlāṯô

I beleive this should be a kametz katan, being the same form as chochmato. Along with that, the sheva should then be nach and elide. This is a rule to add to the kametz katan section.

ûšlōšîm yôm ûšlōšeṯ yāmîm, tēšēḇ biḏmê ṭohŏrāh; bəḵol-qōḏeš lōʾ-ṯiggāʿ, wəʾel-hammiqdāš lōʾ ṯāḇōʾ, ʿaḏ-məlōʾṯ, yəmê ṭohŏrāh
wəʾim-nəqēḇāh ṯēlēḏ, wəṭāməʾāh šəḇuʿayim kəniddāṯāh; wəšiššîm yôm wəšēšeṯ yāmîm, tēšēḇ ʿal-dəmê ṭohŏrāh
ûḇimlōʾṯ yəmê ṭohŏrāh, ləḇēn ʾô ləḇaṯ, tāḇîʾ keḇeś ben-šənāṯô ləʿōlāh, ûḇen-yônāh ʾô-ṯōr ləḥaṭṭāʾṯ--ʾel-peṯaḥ ʾōhel-môʿēḏ, ʾel-hakkōhēn
wəhiqrîḇô lip̄nê ʾăḏōnāy, wəḵipper ʿāle(y)hā, wəṭāhărāh, mimməqōr dāme(y)hā: zōʾṯ tôraṯ hayyōleḏeṯ, lazzāḵār ʾô lannəqēḇāh
wəʾim-lōʾ ṯimṣāʾ yāḏāh, dê śeh--wəlāqəḥāh šəṯDAGESH_UNKNOWNê-ṯōrîm ʾô šənê bənê yônāh, ʾeḥāḏ ləʿōlāh wəʾeḥāḏ ləḥaṭṭāʾṯ; wəḵipper ʿāle(y)hā hakkōhēn, wəṭāhērāh

Here the problem is the word שְׁתֵּי. The sheva seems to be na, since it appears in the beginning of a word, but if so, the dagesh after the tav should not exist. The dagesh (kal) could exist in the tav if the sheva preceding it were nach, but it should not be. This common word seems to contradict various phonological rules -- indeed, because it is a common word, it probably lasted through various historical developments in the Hebrew language. At any rate, we need to treat this as a special case - probably with a sheva nach under the shin.

Why I've been absent the past few weeks:
In general, I've been busy doing things in the real world, relating to trying to advance myself towards a PhD, preparing for classes and for Pesach, and taking care of Meir (who wants the computer for himself to "work" or watch his Baby Einstein DVDs). Hope to pick up blogging again soon.

I'll note here some noteworthy blogs which have been created recently, or which I chanced upon. Mendy has started blogging again. I'm sure you've seen this already, but S. started a new blog, English Hebraica. And I've been reading the chocolate lady's blog, אין מױל ארײן, mostly in an effort to improve my Yiddish, for my own top-secret (but really cool) purposes.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A picture of me wearing a suit

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Try Out My Online Hebrew Transliteration Program -- Now in Beta

My Online Hebrew transliteration program is finally in beta, which means I feel it has enough features and worse about well enough to invite people to check it out. You can play with it here.

From the "About" page on that website:

Version 1.0

This Hebrew transliteration program is created by Joshua Waxman. It is in beta, which means there are still some rough edges to it.

Transliteration Schemes
At the present moment, there are only three transliteration schemes supported. More will be added later. These three are:

  1. Academic Unicode
  2. Academic Font Friendly
  3. Ashkanazic
With the standard encoding settings, Firefox and Opera browsers can handle Academic Unicode, but Internet Explorer cannot. Therefore there is an Academic Font Friendly equivalent offered. Use this if you are using Internet Explorer, or perhaps if you are creating a web page for users who might be using Internet Explorer. In the drop down, besides Academic Unicode and Academic Font Friendly, there is also simply Academic. This will choose the best available version, depending on your browser.

There is also Ashkenazic. This is not my own personal way of transliterating Hebrew -- for example, I use "e" for sheva na rather than single quote -- but it seems a fairly common way.

Still to come:

More transliteration schemes. This is important for the different types of users of this program, as well as handling Google searches for Hebrew transliterated text better.

Also, handling tzeireis in a more natural way. At the present time, in my "Ashkenazic" transliteratikon, eileh and yisraeil both use "ei" to handle the short tzeirei. In actual informal use, a simple "e" would be used for "yisrael." This seems to be a difference between open and closed syllables, and one which does not accord with formal rules of standard dikduk (for eileh is also a closed syllable, with the gemination of lamed). I am in the process of writing a chunker to formally and informally separate syllables, and choose appropriate transliteration on that basis.

Monday, April 03, 2006

More Transliteration Work

First, in response to a question by Rahel: How do I get Hebrew with nikkud to display in Blogger?

I typically cut and paste from an existing source. That is:

1) You might notice I link to mechon-mamre whenever I cite a pasuk or pesukim. They have several Tanach's, including vocalized ones. Simply cutting from mechon-mamre and pasting in Blogger does the trick.

2) When I want to revocalize text, or write something from scratch, I use Microsoft Word, and to get the vowels, I insert symbols. The Hebrew letters and vowels are all within the character set under Times New Roman, for example. After creating the vocalized Hebrew text, I cut and paste into Blogger.

3) I also have a specific character Encoding specified in my Blogger settings. In the Settings Tab, and within that in the Formatting Tab, the Encoding is set to Universal (UTF-8). Perhaps if it were set differently the above two methods would not work.

This is important for my transliteration program as well, since it requires as input vocalized Hebrew text.

Speaking of which, the program is about to go Beta -- I plan on releasing it within the next few days.


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